Awareness not enough
By now, many of you might have seen the white plastic flags adorning the Union Mall that read “1 in 4 no more.” This Project, sponsored by R.E.S.P.E.C.T., the rape-education group on campus, is supposed to raise awareness of the national studies suggesting one in four college women are victimized by sexual assault during their time in college.
This is a startling statistic, and one that garnered a lot of attention on our website in an editorial we wrote last September. To think that one out of your four roommates at Maple Hill, or one out of four girls you eat lunch with will be a victim of sexual assault sometime in her college career is not just stunning: It’s terrifying.
However, that some organizations reduce the crimes that have occurred or will occur to women to representation by plastic flags or old T-shirts, as The Campus Clothesline Project does in the fall, is troubling.
We are completely in favor of programming that will educate students on safety and sexual assault prevention and on drinking more responsibly, but programming like the flags at the Union has no real impact on the campus community except, perhaps, to degrade the women who have been victims to think that the experience they went through is equatable to a flag.
It’s like the little balloons or clovers for which you can pay $1 to support research of some sort when you go to Walgreen’s. This is a mere façade in lieu of real, effective action, and, although it might have some small impact, it’s often used as an excuse to say something was done and to dismiss the need for real, tangible action.
If students want to take action to reduce sexual assault on campus, why don’t they hand out water at fraternity parties, the No. 1 location of rapes on campus this past year? Why don’t they petition for more lights and campus patrollers to help intoxicated girls home at night? Without action behind it, the desire to raise awareness is at best ineffective, at worst, belittling. We can do better.