Obama signs memorandum about campus sexual assault

Nicole Zukowski, News Editor

A renewed pressure by the government is being weighted on the issues of sexual assault on college campuses across the nation.

In late January, Obama signed a memorandum to create a task force of senior administration officials to coordinate federal enforcement efforts. This was after the White House Council on Women and Girls released a report titled “Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action.”

Stated in the report is the claim that rape is most common on college campuses; one in five students has been sexualy assaulted. Another problem that is brought up is the lack of victims reporting the crime. Tweleve percent of attacks are reported to the authorities the report said.

In his address Obama said, “We have to keep reaching out to people who are still suffering in the shadows.”

This pressure comes a month after Obama ordered the Pentagon to cut down on the number of sexual assaults in the military. He gave a deadline of a year to show a decrease in the number of sexual assaults.

The task force created to focus on sexual assaults on college campuses is reported to be made up of the attorney general, secretary of Health and Human Services along with many other officials. Obama gave the task force 90 days to advocate the best practices for colleges to prevent or act in response to sexual assaults.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month, SAAM, is held every April. A new focus on issues of sexual misconduct becomes the campaign for the year. 2014 will be the third and final installment of the “It’s time to talk about it” healthy sexuality campaigns, but focusing on healthy sexuality and young people.

Wilkes has repeatedly drawn attention to the issues of sexual assault on campus. In the student handbook are definitions of what the university considers sexual harassment, sexual misconduct and sexual assault. Wilkes holds a strong stand on anti-harassment of any kind on campus, making it known that it will not be tolerated in the Wilkes community.

“Handling assaults on campuses and in the military is a daunting task because few are trained to handle this delicate situation. If handled poorly, sexual assaults end in victim blaming. Sexual assault cases are extremely challenging to investigate as well and training is needed to do it correctly,” Megan Boone, Student Development coordinator, said.

There are services set up at Wilkes to help the victims of any type of sexual misconduct.

“Rape and sexual assault survivors often suffer from a wide range of physical and mental health problems that can follow them for life, including depression, chronic pain, diabetes, anxiety, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder,” White House Council on Women and Girls report said.

The instructions of filing a report and the process that comes after is stated in the Wilkes student handbook, which could be found online: http://www.wilkes.edu/PDFFiles/StudentHandbook/StudentHandbook.pdf.

Wilkes campus organizations are also involved in education and prevention of sexual assault. The BACCHUS Club on campus educates peers on high-risk behaviors and tries to make campus a safer place. In the beginning of February, BACCHUS held an event, Sexual Jeopardy, on all things relating to sex and on health in general.

The host of the event Anne Holmes said to the audience about the stories she hears from students.

“If you have any questions come down to Passan Hall,” Holmes said.

Last spring semester for the month of April, Wilkes and King’s College in conjunction with the Victims Resource Center held “Take Back the Night” event. This included a march of both schools joining in Public Square and walking together to the Victims Resource Center to hold a rally.

“Take Back the Night” will be held again on April 9 starting in the Student Centers of both Kings and Wilkes at 5:30 p.m.

Also last spring semester students participated in a “Chalk Walk” on campus. On the sidewalks of the Wilkes campus sexual violence statistics and prevention information were written to raise awareness. This event will take place again in the spring.

On Mar. 19 at 7 p.m. as part of the annual Women and Gender Study Conference between Wilkes and King’s College, the keynote address with be given by Melinda Henneberger, a reporter for the Washington Post and anchor of the paper’s She the People blog. The title of the address is “Revolution Needed: The Ongoing Wrong of Sexual Violence on College Campuses.” The lecture will focus on sexual violence on college campuses.

Major points that will be covered are the changing culture that permits these behaviors, the White House Council on Women and Girls’ issues of the under-reporting of numbers of incidents and the typical failure of colleges to respond adequately to the needs of victims.

Another thing to attend concerning sexual assault is the Victim’s Resource Center’s mock rape trial at 6 p.m. in King’s student center on April 2.

In the fall semester of 2014, Wilkes will develop a new program called the Bystander Intervention Program. Stated in the mission statement of the program the focus will be, “to empower students to take on active leadership roles in preventing sexual violence within our campus community.”

The Victim’s Resource Center is offering specialized training courses that will teach volunteers how to engage their peers about sexual misconduct awareness and protocol.

If interested in volunteering for the programs contact the offices of Student Affairs or Student Development.

Sexual assault is a serious issue and is regarded as such on the Wilkes campus. For any questions about anything regarding sexual misconduct, contact the Victim’s Resource Center or offices of Student Affairs or Student Development.