Letters to the Editor

BY DI READERS | MARCH 05, 2014 5:00 AM

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UI should lead in preventing sexual assaults

University of Iowa President Sally Mason has put forward a six-point plan to address sexual misconduct on campus. This plan is a start if it includes a zero-tolerance policy with teeth and expanded support for victims. But the university also has to do the long-term work of confronting the sociocultural factors that create a climate in which rape is tolerated.

The online sexual-violence prevention course students are required to take explains that sexist attitudes and alcohol are major factors contributing to the likelihood of rape. Why then is the university doing nothing to address sexism and alcohol abuse? The online course, like many before it, focuses largely on training women how to avoid being raped. Why are we not training men to be allies and advocates? Men are privy to sexist behavior behind closed doors and can use social pressure to shut it down. Who else is better positioned to change the attitudes of their peers?

The UI is engaged in bystander training. Bystander training is a positive step because it calls on men and women to be a part of the solution to rape, but it still only addresses the problem once high-risk behaviors are already in motion. Representatives from the university must reach out to other universities and student-led groups looking for new solutions. The administration needs to attend the meeting at Dartmouth this summer that will bring university representatives together to learn about best practices for campus tribunals. Our campus needs smart, well-researched policies that work.

Why are we only brave enough to be reactive? Can’t we be proactive? We need a cultural campaign promoting a shift in attitudes about gender, sex, sexual consent, and alcohol. This is not easy work, but it is the work that has to be done to tackle the root causes of this issue. The UI could be a leader in changing social culture and developing innovative policies to address the crisis of sexual misconduct and rape on campus.

Leslie Smith

Behind the non-reporting of sexual assaults

The Department of Justice victimization survey included a question about why rapes were not reported to the police. The results were that 8 percent had reported the assault to another official, 21 percent had personal reasons for not reporting, 13 percent lacked confidence in the police, 7 percent wanted to keep their assailant out of trouble with the law, 20 percent feared reprisal, and 31 percent had other or numerous reasons for not reporting. I would not be surprised that fear of reprisal is more a more important reason for a college student not reporting a rape than for the general population.

John Neff

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