Students campaign for sexual assault awareness
Some of Seton Hall’s most active organizations have begun a movement to promote education about sexual violence and its prevention. All fraternities, headed by Sigma Pi’s Altruistic Campus Experience (ACE) Project, the Student Government Association and Sexual Assault and Violence Education (SAVE), opened a campus-wide discussion on Monday, Oct. 20, to combat and uncover the truth about sexual violence on college campuses.
The ACE Project has targeted pressing topics for 12 years, promoting education on a specific topic for one week each year. Sigma Pi chose the issue of sexual violence in response to the recent political and social issue as well as the school’s effort to bring the issue to the attention of the students.
“(Increase in reports) is a good thing,” Walter Grosenheider, Sigma Pi’s ACE Chair said. “The number (of victims) is scary. A lot of times, huge numbers go unreported. Now you have things in the news, like Ray Rice, that are getting huge news coverage that wouldn’t have in the past. It’s something that we need to talk about as a society. You can’t just sweep it under the rug. We hope to really see them decrease in the future. Especially with the Obama Administration doing what it’s doing on college campuses, including Seton Hall’s.”
Sandra Ackerman, staff psychologist and director of SAVE, said that when a campus shuts out a crime, victims become “ashamed or guilty;” and that forces people to hold back. The more that campuses hold these types of events, the harder the issue becomes to avoid. “We are not a clean campus. But we are teaching people how to stand up for and support one another.”
Despite the expanded efforts, there are students who are unable to take the matter seriously or feel disconnected on some level. Flyers posted on walls in the residence halls have messages like, “it’s not sex if she’s drunk.” Even if no immediate action is taken, the point of the signs is to reinforce the idea that sex must be consensual.
“A lot of people think it won’t help, but it is beneficial if at least one person recognizes that it’s true and identifies with it,” said Marielle Montecillo, a Delta Phi Epsilon sister. “You might complain that we’re shoving posters down your throat, but at the end of the day if it helps one person, it makes it all worth it. All of the resources are always available and you might think you’ll never use it. Even if you don’t, someone might. And as long as those resources are there to help that one person, it makes it all worth it.”
The misconception that it only affects women is also being addressed. Grosenheider said that this is not a women versus men issue, “this is all kinds of relationships.”
“It affects all types of students. That should be acknowledged,” Montecillo said. “It also helps the administration to see there is a grass roots efforts by the students to help men and women that are affected by sexual violence.”
To promote education and support of victims of sexual assault, students will be encouraged to sign the “Its On Us” pledge. SAVE will host a table in the University Center the first week of November, handing out buttons for those who align themselves with the message.
Increasing numbers of sexual assaults reported is, in fact, a positive thing. Until the problem of sexual violence is solved, the more people who bring attention to this issue, the more support is rallied.
Grosenheider indicated that fraternities and athletes, specifically, are using visibility as a positive and influential tool in this situation. There was a necessary shift from statistics to education to “actually teach people what to do in certain situations.”
“It’s something that we can have a direct affect with. It’s something we can look at specifically with college campuses around the country and bring more attention to,” Grosenheider said. ”It’s important to bring the subject to the forefront. It’s something you should always have in the back of your head. This just reminds you, gives you a guideline that smart people have come up with. You don’t know how people will react, you don’t know certain situations, so you always have to be mindful of that.”
The efforts to unite the campus against sexual violence will continue past this week and into the spring semester. The national director of Greek Life will come in to discuss the role that Greek Life has on this issue specifically and address different approaches to the issue of resolving conflict and victimization on campus. SAVE will be holding open meetings in the spring for members and non-members to discuss relevant topics regarding sexual violence both nationally and campus-wide.
Anna Griffin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.