Dugan: Still a need for sexual assault awareness

BY JACK DUGAN | APRIL 15, 2015 5:00 AM

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Two students at Troy University in Alabama have been charged with sexually assaulting an incapacitated 19-year-old woman on the beaches of Florida over spring break, sometime during March 10-12, according to police reports. The incident was caught on camera while hundreds of onlookers did nothing to intervene or even to notify the authorities, as this assault wasn’t brought to light to the local police department until an officer stumbled upon the video investigating a different crime.

This instance enters the national dialogue at an interesting time, for the month of April as been deemed Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and controversy is boiling over the Rolling Stone situation, in which allegedly false accusations of rape were published without proper fact checking, potentially tarnishing the reputations of every party involved.

First, I’d like to address the importance of the awareness month. I have overheard peers questioning the existence of such a program, and their questions are perhaps founded, for why do we really need to bring attention to such a nationally disdained crime? Are we not already aware of just how problematic sexual assault is in and outside of the university setting?

Apparently not, because of the hundreds of spring-break partygoers surrounding the incident that occurred on that Florida beach, not a single person called the authorities, nor did anyone do a thing to stop the attack.

According to Sheriff Frank McKeithen of Panama City Beach, in a New York Times report, “within 10 feet of where this happened, there were hundred, hundreds of people standing there watching.”

In a classroom, everyone can agree that sexual assault is a serious offence, yet on spring break is moral perceptivity put on hold? We are, arguably, in the third wave of feminism, and just like Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the two are absolutely needed because sexual assault still flies, according to college culture.

Second, I feel as it is important to note, in contrast to the Rolling Stone controversy, that for every instance of false accusation, there are thousands of factual assaults and perhaps even more so in unreported assaults.

In the Florida case, the victim was incapable of reporting the assault, because she states that she couldn’t remember the instance clearly enough. People have claimed that Rolling Stone’s report has been detrimental to the feminist initiative, though I would argue instead that people like those spring-break onlookers are perhaps the most destructive contemporary hindrance to the progress of feminism and to achieving a sincerely safe environment for women. Because in environments such as the Florida beach, apathy and silence are endorsements of sexual assault.

So, how can we approach this? First and perhaps most obvious order of business would be conviction of those who perpetrated this act.

Second, more education, more awareness, and hopefully from there more intervention. The Sexual Assault Awareness Month is of course an important aspect to the solution, but perhaps we need to do more in our universities. Maybe a required first-year course on the issue of sexual assault would be a drastic, yet necessary, action.

As for on an individual basis? If you see something, say something.

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