Editor in Chief
Four years. Fifty-two cases of rape. Thirty-one players. Seventeen cases of sexual assault. Nineteen players. A plethora of evidence of rape and sexual assault, and systematic cover-up by coaching staff and administrators has brought Baylor University and its football program into the national spotlight and put them under great scrutiny in the world of ethics and morals.
While Baylor might have the most egregious story, sexual assault and domestic violence have become prevalent across the nation. Anyone can be a victim of these heinous crimes. According to the National Sexual Violence Research Center, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will be raped at some point in their life.
According to a Gallup Poll, one in three women in the United States worry about being sexually assaulted. In addition, recent developments in the abbreviated jail sentence of former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner over a rape he committed while in college have raised concern about how our country is handling this issue. Perhaps the biggest cause for concern amongst Americans is the fact that the current President bragged about sexually assaulting women, was recorded saying it, and was still elected even after those recordings were released.
The effects of sexual assault or rape on an individual are long lasting. “[Sexual assault and rape] can lead to stress and anxiety, and it isn’t uncommon for it to lead to depression, self harm, and even suicide because it is such a horrible violation,” said Jamesville-DeWitt High School Psychologist Elaine Howe. This is what makes sexual assault so horrific, and what concerns so many people.
Colleges and universities across the nation are required to report statistics about sexual assault and rape on their campuses. This allows for the problem to be identified, and for actions to be taken to prevent it. However, high schools are not required to report any incidents at the national level.
In New York State, schools are required to report cases of sexual misconduct through the Violent and Disruptive Incident Reporting system. This does not allow for completely accurate statistics to be collected on the issue as it pertains to most teenagers, so there is uncertainty regarding how big the issue is with teens, as well as how to handle it on a national scale.
“There are federal reports, like civil rights reports, that we are required to do. I think that any violence that happens in school, whether it be sexual violence or not, should be reported to some sort of clearing house,” said J-DHS Principal Paul Gasparini.
College campuses across the nation have begun to fight the issue with the It’s On Us campaign, which aims to get people to recognize, identify, and intervene in developing situations of sexual assault and rape, and to try and create an atmosphere free of these horrible acts.
As for the Baylor case, Mr. Gasparini said that he doesn’t think this is a new issue. “I think people look at it with a more critical eye. Nothing is just passed off (anymore). The Baylor problem could’ve happened 50 years ago and no one would’ve said anything about it.”
As this issue has come more into the public eye, many people and organizations have joined in the fight to end them. Locally, organizations like Vera House have made it their mission to not only provide for victims, but educate the public on the issue. Nationally, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network works to provide many of the same services as Vera House. “People feel empowered to address these bad things that are happening in society,” said Mr. Gasparini.
At J-DHS, students have been exposed to different levels of information surrounding this issue. In health classes, Vera House representatives come in for a class and talk about the work they do. In addition, they educate students to recognize situations where sexual assault or rape can arise, and how to try and prevent it. J-DHS also has a club called Mentors in Violence Protection (MVP). Members of this club work with Vera House to inform the students and faculty of J-DHS through guest speakers and other educational opportunities.
As many students across the nation, including myself, prepare to head off to college in a few months, this issue is one that we hear about a lot. As a future college student-athlete, I will hear about this issue even more, since cases involving student-athletes seem to garner the most attention. However, it is crucial that we don’t focus on a specific group of people when it comes to addressing this issue. If we let the misconception that seems to be forming that athletes are the main perpetrators of sexual assault, especially on college campuses, it is highly possible that the issue will not be resolved or reduced. It worries me that this seems to be the major focus because there are so many perpetrators who aren’t athletes, thus making people even more vulnerable to becoming a victim of the crime.
I also spent the fall semester of my senior year volunteering at Vera House, where I volunteered side-by-side with some survivors of sexual assault. This was very eye-openning for me because I never would’ve guessed that any of these survivors had experienced sexual assault. In my time working with Vera House, I learned that identifying perpetrators and victims in cases of sexual assault is hard because there aren’t always signs that point to a person as someone involved in the case. This is what makes it such a difficult issue.
Just because cases involving athletes attract the most press, doesn’t mean that this isn’t an issue for the entire country. There are too many instances of sexual assault each day, perpetrated by a variety of people. According to Michigan Universty’s Student Life webpage, there is no typical profile for a rapist or perpetrators of sexual assault. We, as a society, cannot continue to only highlight incidents with athletes because athletes are not the only perpetrators of sexual assault. As awareness of sexual assault grows, spreading the word to fight this issue is becoming more prominent.
Throughout the month of March, organizations across the nation participate in the White Ribbon Campaign to spread awareness about the issues of sexual assault and rape. For more information about sexual assault and rape, the White Ribbon campaign, or how you can join the fight against these issues, visit www.verahouse.org, www.rainn.org, or www.itsonus.org.