Awareness of sexual violence has increased among the Penn State community in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case, but still, 11 sexual assaults have been reported in the State College area since the start of the semester on Aug. 27.
Student groups on campus have been established simply for the purpose of raising awareness about sexual assault and attempting to prevent further cases, one such club being OnlyWithConsent.
Jasmin Enriquez (senior-communications arts and sciences) founded OnlyWithConsent at Penn State.
“Sexual violence is a social problem and it is our personal and social responsibility to take a stand against sexual violence by making it socially unacceptable,” she wrote in an email.
In an effort to do just that, members of OnlyWithConsent, along with other students, including members of the LGBTA coalition, hosted a protest outside the HUB-Robeson Center on Friday, Oct. 26 in order to raise awareness about the prevalence of sexual assault on campus.
“We were concerned about the lack of outrage from administrators and students,” Zach Davis, co-president of the LGBTA coalition on campus said. “Most people know [sexual assault] is bad, but they don’t care to take the time to speak out and do something about it.”
Davis (sophomore-women’s studies) said he received mostly positive responses from students who passed by the protest, and he hopes the event raised awareness and got people “riled up.”
“I think [the protest was] a good way to get people's attention because unfortunately people have the mentality that they would never be a victim of sexual assault…It is a lot easier to say that it would not happen [to you] and not deal with it, than to stop and see how prevalent it is not only on our campus, but in the world,” wrote Enriquez.
Audra Hixson, the assistant director for the Center for Women Students on campus, said the number of sexual assaults reported this semester isn’t unusual, as the highest number of reported incidents of sexual assaults tends to occur early in the fall semester of each school year.
Hixson believes the fact that the assaults are being reported is good, as typically only 10 percent of sexual abuse incidences on college campuses are reported, but the implication of this is that far more sexual assaults could be occurring than have been reported.
Hixson also said rape myths and “victim-blaming” tendencies that are present both in our culture as a whole, and also in our judicial system, perpetuate the idea that it is the person’s fault if he or she has been assaulted, so a “that could never happen to me” mentality persists.
“[Sexual assault] continues because it is a part of our society, especially in the social environment surrounding a college campus,” Hixson said. “Women out at a party where there’s alcohol are considered to be sexually available…and things [like grabbing or touching a woman without consent] which would usually be considered inappropriate are normalized.”
Both Hixson and Enriquez assert that the most important thing society can do is to focus on the prevalence of sexual assault and provide people who have been assaulted with support and resources, rather than blaming or doubting them.