Pacific students discuss sexual assault on and off campus, across genders

posted in: Opinion | 0

The Pacific University administration, in conjunction with ACE Board, has recently made the decision to officially cancel the end-of-year dance, known to students as Boxer Ball.

My opinion might be an unpopular one, but I believe that the university has made the responsible decision.

Boxer Ball has been canceled due to the incidents of last spring’s dance. As is to be expected in a university setting, many students arrived to the dance intoxicated. This in itself is not such a grand issue: college students will be college students, and there’s nothing wrong with a little harmless fun, they argue.

Normally, I would agree, but the events of last year’s Boxer Ball were far from harmless. The Stoller Center incurred physical damage, to the extent that dances were no longer permitted to be held there. Far more serious than vomit in the bathrooms, Campus Public Safety and the administration received multiple complaints of sexual harassment and assault, incidents likely encouraged by drunken shenanigans.

According to the website, a sexual assault advocacy organization, one in four women attending a college or university in the U.S. have survived assault or attempted assault at some point in their lifetime. In one year, five percent of women enrolled in colleges or universities experience assault or attempted assault. Sixty percent of the rapes that occur on campuses are perpetrated by an acquaintance of the victim. Assault on college campuses, as President Barack Obama recently (finally) recognized, is a massive problem, and it is growing, constantly.

The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics was signed in 1990 after the rape and murder of a Lehigh University freshman by another student in her residence hall. The Clery Act requires universities to disclose and make available crime information relevant to their respective campuses, including sexual assault. The Pacific University Campus Security webpage does disclose this information, but only for the years 2009 through 2011. Where are the statistics for academic years 2012/2013 and 2013/2014?

The incidents of Boxer Ball did not need to occur to prove that this university campus has a problem with the issue of sexual harassment/assault and consent. I have been cat called and approached with unwanted verbal advances more on this campus and the surrounding area than I have ever experienced elsewhere, and having seen it occur to other female students, I know that I am not alone. Outsiders might be quick to brush off this sort of harassment that occurred at Boxer Ball as nothing more than drunken groping, but to the victims, having one’s body touched or even commented on unwantedly is an extremely disturbing experience.

Consent should not be a “blurred line,” to borrow from Robin Thicke, whether or not alcohol is present, and regardless of the genders of those involved. What many students do not realize is that sexual assault or harassment is more than “just rape.” Harassment can range from cat calling to stalking to refusing to leave an ex-partner alone. Assault can range from that same drunken groping that occurred at Boxer Ball to rape to forcible coercion and manipulation, as was my personal experience with assault. The degree of physical trauma may differ from case to case, but all are emotionally harmful. All deal with a violation of consent: the presence of an independently-decided and enthusiastic, “YES!”

Pacific is taking steps to educate its students about sexual assault and consent, including a mandatory Title IX training to take place in the fall. The Center for Gender Equity, with its events ranging from “The Vagina Monologues” to the Love Your Body Week to its annual Take Back the Night March, does much to vocalize the concept of consent. These are conversations that need to continue to take place and that need to reach every single student.

From what I can tell, both publicly with incidents such as Boxer Ball and personally in my own experience, the message hasn’t sunk in yet. And with the statistics stacked against me as a college-attending woman in the United States, that scares me. Pacific was smart to cancel Boxer Ball until it can better educate its students about sexual assault and consent, and until students can demonstrate that they are ready to behave with respect towards others.

As for me, after the events reported last spring, I don’t know if I will feel safe to attend another dance this year. It frustrates and upsets me that in a place where I am supposed to feel safe, my own university campus, incidents like this are still allowed to occur.


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