Sexual assault awareness bettering our campus

By Sam Deal, Opinion Editor

EWU is moving in the right direction with the campus-wide sexual assault awareness campaign.

Reported sexual assaults have increased dramatically this quarter. This is obviously troublesome, but as reported by the Easterner, this increase is partially due to the university’s push to increase on-campus awareness.

Due to the nature of the crime, many of the violations that occur will not come to light. But with each case that is brought to the authorities the prevalence of such crimes becomes more evident.

Via the timely warning log we’ve had seven reported sexual assaults this quarter, five more than 2013 and 2014 combined. But that doesn’t mean that assaults are occurring at higher rates. They are just being reported more than in the past.

A societal change in the way we view sexual assaults is not going to happen overnight. Sadly it is a process of changing opinions and proving relevance.

The strategies being implemented throughout our campus to actively advise students about the dangers associated with being a student is vital to that process.

But it is about much more than warning of the dangers.

During winter quarter 2015, one of my classes viewed a pre-launch presentation from the Start by Believing campaign. During the session, I listened but did not put much thought into what was actually being offered.

Not two days later a friend came to me and explained their own experience with sexual assault. It had occurred months before and until that point, I had had no idea.

Having learned, just days prior, how to give support in similar situations, you’d think I’d have been prepared to help.

Helping as much as I could, I still felt overwhelmingly underprepared for that conversation. I knew the statistics, but I still never imagined that I would sit there hearing this story from a friend.

The rage I felt was quickly overtaken by anguish.

Knowing that someone I cared about had and would forever be altered by the choices of another is the most helpless I’ve felt in my entire life.

I felt like my sympathy fell on deaf hears. How could I ever understand the fear and complete lack of power a victim of such a crime feels? Thankfully it wasn’t. Two days later I received a thank you text for simply being there and listening without judgment.

I don’t think anyone will ever truly be prepared for that conversation, but because of that class, I at least understood how to be supportive and not standoffish.

No, there is not enough being done to prevent sexual assault. But with each step comes more progress against what can look like an insurmountable foe. EWU’s timely warning log is a good way to track and respond to sexual assault cases, but the more prevention presented to students the better.

Changing a society that would prefer to remain ignorant to its own shortcomings is a difficult task and one that does not occur in one giant sweep. Unfortunately, sexual assault is part of our ethos. But not only is the university increasing awareness, it is also changing our mindset towards one of aiding victims rather than excommunicating them.