As you may or may not know, Her Campus Point Park has decided to dedicate all content for the entire week of Nov. 9 – 15 to sexual violence awareness. As one of two Campus Correspondents for the Her Campus chapter at Point Park University, I feel as though a few things need to be addressed about our Sexual Violence Awareness Week.
HC Point Park is in no way shape or form responding or taking a stance/side to current or past events on campus. The articles and main idea of our Sexual Violence Awareness Week are a reaction to – what we feel – a lack of education on sexual violence in our student body and our generation as a whole. While there are obvious exceptions, it seems as though many college students are not fully educated on what to do in an event of sexual violence, who to go to afterward, or even what constitutes sexual violence. The purpose of our SVAW is to change that.
HC Point Park created a survey about sexual violence and assault, which was taken by 70 people over the course of the past two weeks. Of these 70 people, 34 out of the 69 who answered (1 person skipped the question) said they have been sexually assaulted. That’s almost half. In another survey conducted by our organization in the past week, 5 out of 19 people said that they had, in some form, been educated on the topic. In comments, 2 of the 14 who answered “yes” stated they learned about some aspects of the topic, but not in-depth. That is 26.32% who have not been educated at all, and an even higher percentage that say they have not properly been educated.
Personally, I had never been educated on sexual violence or abuse in a school setting. Coming to a small liberal arts school, I never thought I had to worry about issues like those I have read about in Cosmo about rape and violence (the stories usually took place at larger universities). Growing up in a small town with less than 1,000 people, I never had issues with walking down the street in a tank top and shorts. Once I had moved to our beautiful campus in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh that had changed.
I never knew what to do when I would get yelled at for what I was wearing. Catcalling became a constant issue in my daily life. Do I reply? Yell back? Does that make me just as bad as my catcaller? What about when I am approached? Do I scream? Hit? Run? I was given mace upon my arrival to school. Many other college girls I know carry some form of pepper spray or mace as well. While it’s purpose is to protect me when used, no one ever told me when or how to use it. It was like I was handed a disposable camera and told “point and shoot.” While there have been multiple occasions in the city in which my finger was ready to press, thankfully I never have had to. Honestly, though, would I be able to if needed? No one ever said, “even if you’re not sure, spray” or “trust your gut instinct.” It leaves me wondering, when is it okay to spray someone with it? I still don’t know.
In the city of Pittsburgh and on campus, other women (and even men) will probably face catcallers at some point. Not knowing when to use protection and what to do in response is part of the reason Her Campus Point Park wanted to dedicate a week of content to educating those who, like me, are unsure. Our articles this week focus on a variety of sexual violence issues, not just protection. We invited guest writers to speak about their stories. We really wanted to give others a voice. As an online publication, it’s easy for our writers to share their ideas and feelings, so we wanted to offer that opportunity to others. Inviting readers to take our surveys gave us a better idea of what topics to cover over the course of this week.
While these surveys were both given by our organization, they were both taken anonymously (unless a name was provided at the will of the survey taker). No one was able to tamper the results, and we have no idea who answered the questions. One of the comments under the question “is sexual assault taken seriously on campus” (to which only 4 people responded “yes”) was: “if more people knew about it, it would probably be taken more seriously.” If any comment were to sum up the reasoning behind HC Point Park’s Sexual Violence Week – this is it.
When we asked students if they would like to be educated on sexual violence and assault, 82.35% said “yes.” With such a high response (more than ¾ of those asked) we decided to do something. When we asked them if they thought sexual assault is common – 100% said “yes.” One Hundred Percent. That’s everyone. Every single person who took the survey thinks that it is a common occurrence, but more than ¼ of these same people don’t know what to do in the event of assault. When asked, “Do you know anyone who has been sexually assaulted,” only 1 person answered “no.” Along with this, only 2 people answered, “yes” to the question “do you feel that adequate help is given to victims of sexual assault?” Let that sink in.
According to our survey results, at least 95% of students know someone who has been sexually assaulted. Of that, only 23.53% feel as though these issues are taken seriously and an even more startling 11.76% feel that adequate help is given. The school offers counselors and judicial support. With each percentage that HC Point Park was startled by, it reinforced our decision to dedicate this week to sexual violence awareness. After these questions we then asked, “What can be done to reduce the number of sexual assaults?” This question was one of few that had comment answers only, not multiple choices. In responses, 13 of the 17 people who answered used the word “educate” in some form. While the school offers self defense classes in the student center, the live resources for education is somewhat hard to come by. Myself, along with my Co-Campus Correspondent Lexie Mikula and the rest of our staff felt as though we had the right – no, obligation – to use our publication as a means of helping those who want to become educated do so.
In closing, I want to thank everyone who helped make this week and all of our content possible. Our staff, guest writers, interviewees, models for our photography shoot, survey takers, etc. – you are all amazing. Every answer, content idea, article, personal story, and picture helped Her Campus Point Park’s Sexual Violence Awareness Week educate others on the topic. We would love to hear your feedback and responses to our articles and are also taking questions for our radio show which airs every Monday from 6-7 on WPPJ 670 am. Every voice counts, it’s not too late to let yours be heard.
HCxo from your Co-Campus Correspondent,