When browsing through The Daily Collegian’s archives, it’s extremely disturbing to note the recurrence of sexual violence.
Throughout Penn State’s history, the student community has constantly struggled with and endlessly discussed this issue. On the bright side, if one thing has changed over time, there has been a continuing tendency toward openness in confronting sexual violence.
Consider the public outrage over Notre Dame’s Lizzy Seeberg, who committed suicide after reporting being sexually assaulted by a football team member.
More than ever, personal challenges are giving way to outcry for Millenials, a trend deeply rooted in past activism at University Park.
Perhaps it was the annual Take Back the Night walk, which got its start on campus in the 1980s, that truly started shifting area student attitudes away from victimization. The Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case has put this progress into overdrive.
No longer is sexual violence in the dark, but students are the ones charged to act on these societal changes, in the end. One act of sexual violence is too much.
After last week, a sizable portion of Penn State students know the meaning of “Only Do It With Consent.” Shirts with the slogan were seemingly everywhere.
Co-sponsored by the University Park Undergraduate Association, Sexual Violence Awareness Week is getting bigger every year at Penn State.
Dare I say it’s the most important legislation that UPUA backs all year long?
The Penn State Center for Women Students, Men Against Violence, UPUA and other groups have shown those who have been sexually assaulted that their supporters are here in droves.
At the end of the week, I cheered at my first Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, a new highlight of the spring semester. Men hobbled down Pollock Road in high heels to promote sexual violence awareness.
“It’s important we show the women in our lives that we understand about certain things, and that we care,” President of Men Against Violence Tanner Fitzgerald (senior-finance) said before the walk.
On Friday, I watched some excellent musicians and speakers on Heister Street as part of the Rock Against Rape, culminating the week’s programs.
What a week it was for spectators, activists and those affected by sexual violence alike.
Last Tuesday, female performers joined together at the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center to empower themselves and others on the topic of sexual violence.
One of the performers, Kate Curley, said she had come a long way to articulate her past experiences, according to a Collegian report.
Others found outlets on social media sites, posting their responses to street harassment. With local activism also comes national legislative changes that will help those sexually assaulted find justice. These are hopeful times for those formerly hopeless.
In early March, President Obama signed an updated version of the Violence Against Women Act. A newly added law, the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, requires universities to inform students who have been sexually assaulted of their rights, as well as where to seek legal help and psychological resources.
The law also clarifies the rights of those who have been sexually assaulted as students, and gives them new appeal powers. To reiterate themes from the past week, one in four women is sexually assaulted at some point in her life, along with one in six men.
As those sexually assaulted find standing in the eyes of the law, we as students must also continue to keep in mind Sexual Violence Awareness Week in public, not in private.
Mike Hricik is a senior majoring in print journalism and is The Daily Collegian’s Monday columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.