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When, Not If: A Call to Action for Sexual Assault Awareness at Saint Louis University

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SLU chapter.

Trigger Warning: Mentions of Sexual Assault and Abuse

“DPS was informed this morning that the Title IX office received a report from a SLU student that they were sexually assaulted…”

After three years, I can probably recite that entire email by heart. I remember the first one I ever got: it was my freshman year and classes had not even started yet. Months later, I ended up meeting the girl whose assault warranted that email–she had been raped by a friend while she was drunk at a party. It was her third day on campus. 

Three years later and that email still stops me dead in my tracks. It halts all conversation. Sexual assault on college campuses is the elephant in the room. Everyone knows that it is there, yet no one wants to talk about it. 

1 in 4 women will experience sexual assault during college. 

It’s time we talk about it. 

Sexual assault on college campuses isn’t just a problem–it’s an epidemic. While 25% of women will experience sexual assault during college, 6% of men will, as well. Women in sororities are 74% more likely to be sexually assaulted than non-affiliated college women, and fraternity men are three times more likely to commit sexual assault. Gay and bisexual men are 10 times more likely to experience sexual assault than their straight counterparts. For bisexual women, the trend is even higher with 46% being sexually assaulted during their lifetime. Women of color have a significantly higher rate of sexual violence than that of white women. 

It is, and has been for years, personal. I feel as if many people do not fully understand what “one in four” truly means. Every single person that I know has been affected by sexual assault, whether it be themselves or someone they care about. I have hugged my friends as they cried. I have watched them realize, years after the fact, that they were assaulted. I have watched as girls that I went to high school with become fierce advocates of sexual assault prevention seemingly out of nowhere. The hardest thing is that I know that this advocacy did not just appear one morning–something happened to warrant it. I have watched girls who are strangers make sure the other gets home safe. We have wiped each other’s tears, held each other’s hands. There is an unspoken assurance: you are okay. There is pain, there is anger and there is unbelievable power

So what do we do? 

We educate and hold people accountable. 

We must talk about sex. Our society does a great disservice to our children, especially our daughters, in the ways that we teach them about sex. We teach women that sex is something that happens to them, not with them. We make sexuality something shameful, something to be guilty about. This behavior only perpetuates rape and rape culture. Instead, we need to have honest conversations about enthusiastic consent and what it looks like. We need to teach them that anything less than a “yes” is a “no.” That consent needs to be given, but it can be taken away at any time. That a “yes” once is not a permanent condition. 

This burden of education does not just fall on our daughters, but more importantly our sons. The behaviors leading to sexual assault are taught. “Boys will be boys” is a phrase that I have heard far too often to excuse inexcusable behavior. When sexual assault happens, I have witnessed institutions, including Saint Louis University, be more concerned with their own reputation than finding justice for the victim. 

Hold. Them. Accountable. 

When, not if, sexual assault happens, we stand up for each other, especially for those who cannot. The heartbreaking reality is that you are not alone. If you have the strength to report it, please do. I hope that you have the courage to tell someone. There are countless resources available to you. Please use them. You do not have to face this alone. 

Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in educational institutions. On every college campus that receives federal funding, there will be Title IX services. There, you can find support and aid following any form of sex-based discrimination, including sexual assault and harassment. You can file a formal report, which would launch an investigation into your case, as well as an informal report that would stay private until another person came forward or you choose to begin an investigation. Beyond reporting, Title IX offices can connect you with counseling and other mental health services. At Saint Louis University, their offices are in Dubourg Hall and they can be reached at 314-977-3886. 

Title IX is not the only option at SLU for those looking for support.

Know Your IX is a nonprofit organization that provides educational services on Title IX so that students are well informed on their rights and how to use them. 

SAM is an independent sexual assault hotline run by anonymous SLU students for SLU students and can be reached at ex 314-301-0904.  

@projectkeephersafe is an Instagram account run by a St. Louis resident for college students to receive support and resources for cases of domestic violence, sexual assault and sexual abuse.  

Safe Connections has both a crisis hotline (314-531-2003) and counseling and support services (314-646-7500). 

RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) has a 24-hour hotline at 800-656-HOPE.

Originally from Southern California, studying International Relations and Political Science at Saint Louis University.