Over the course of the last two weeks, Stanford students, faculty, and staff alongside campus sexual assault activists are decrying the precedent set forth by Judge Persky’s decision to give Brock Turner a surprisingly lenient 6-month jail sentence in response to his three felony convictions. Meanwhile, the victim’s harrowing published statement has struck a chord with the nation as Buzzfeed reports that over 5 million people have read the statement over the course of the last few days. But, why? Is it the vivid picture painted by the victim’s detailed account of the horrific experience? Or is this the first time people have been face to face with the staggering magnitude of the sexual assault epidemic occurring throughout college campuses?
In a nationally representative survey of adults conducted by the CDC in 2014, nearly 1 in 5 (18.3%) women and 1 in 71 men (1.4%) reported experiencing rape at some time in their lives. This is not a new problem within our society, but rather an issue that has been humanized to the point that it is now impossible to ignore. The focus of many media outlets has been historically misplaced on the “dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity”. The Stanford rape case is unfortunately telling of a culture that millions of Americans subsist in: where men and women feel entitled to sex.
Perhaps it may seem naïve to expect people to change the manner in which they think about sexual assault overnight, but one thing the Stanford case certainly proves is that this is an issue that deserves our global attention and effort; an issue worth fighting for. There is certainly increasing concern about the safety of students on college campuses and whether authorities are taking appropriate action to address and respond to sexual assault. There are also questions of whether or not student leaders dedicate enough focus and resources to preventing Sexual Assault, protecting victims and prosecuting perpetrators. College students do not simply hope to earn a degree. The ultimate college experience should include four years of personal development of individual character, character that far overshadows athletic or academic achievement Members of any university community have a right to feel safe in their environment – free from sexual intimidation or violence of any kind. Of course it is much easier to make a statement about the university experience all students deserve than to execute and maintain that experience, but it starts with courageously and unashamedly continuing to shed light on one of society’s most inimical epidemics.
As leaders of USC’s Undergraduate Student Government, we stand alongside all victims; not only as supporters but as allies in the fight against sexual assault. We understand that USC is in no way perfect and certainly has room to improve; Trojans have as much work to do as anyone else. But we are here, and although we cannot erase the devastating experience of the unnamed 23-year-old survivor in January of 2015, we can and will stand with you. You are not alone in your fight.
We would also like to thank you. Thank you for your poignant words in your powerful account. Thank you for showing that those who have been victimized by sexual assault are not destined to remain as victims. There is help, and there is certainly hope. We thank you for showing your strength; strength that deserves much more than what this world has handed you thus far. You have inspired people everywhere: man or woman, athlete or student, black or white, victim or survivor, to stop perpetuating and disbelieving survivors of sexual assault. Although Stanford and ‘SC may be rivals on the field and in the classroom, we are on the same team in this fight. We hope that you not only know, but feel the support of the Trojan Family. Fight On!
Student Body Vice President
Undergraduate Student Government
- On June 20, 2016