Why FIU should be angry about sexual assault on campus

Image by Eduardo Merille via Flickr

Marilyn Figueroa | Contributing Writer



“It’s on Us” hangs on a banner between Blue Garage and Gold Garage, on shirts and flyers throughout campus, and has initiated numerous sexual assault awareness events at our university. Just one day after the Slut Walk was held here at FIU, a 19-year-old freshman has come forward saying that she was raped on campus.

WSVN 7 News released video of the victim and posted the subsequent report: “The alleged victim said she and a friend met an FIU football player and his friend at a cafe on campus. The women accepted an invitation to stop at an apartment, which is where, she said, she was raped. “I said no several times, and he continued on. After he was done, he told me I was useless, and that I should learn how to perform better sex.”

On April 4, 2015, students received a message from FIU’s External Relations containing a very different tone than outside news sources. The email of just 121 words included the following: “Although this alleged incident involves individuals who know each other, FIUPD is asking the FIU community to, as always, please be aware of your surroundings, avoid poorly lit areas while alone and make sure friends or family know your whereabouts at all times.”

The language used is more than just questionable, it downplays the sexual assault entirely.

By using that verbiage to describe the assault is already taking power away from the victim. It’s called Victim Blaming and guess what? Two of three of rapes are committed by someone you know.

Sexual assault doesn’t just happen in poorly lit alley ways by a person in a dark hoodie. This is what we’re being taught in countless “It’s On Us” forums and panels where I’ve seen students snicker at statistics or barely paying attention.

TruLe’sia Newberry, an FIU student, talked of her personal experience. “My freshman year I had a friend who was sexually assaulted come to my room and confide in me, but was highly apprehensive to go to university officials because of the lack of openness and awareness reverberated across campus.”

The efforts that have been made towards sexual assault awareness is a positive approach, but we have to do more.

At the launch of the It’s On Us campaign, President Barack Obama spoke of the issue.

“For anybody whose once-normal, everyday life was suddenly shattered by an act of sexual violence, the trauma, the terror can shadow you long after one horrible attack.  It lingers when you don’t know where to go or who to turn to.  It’s there when you’re forced to sit in the same class or stay in the same dorm with the person who raped you; when people are more suspicious of what you were wearing or what you were drinking, as if it’s your fault, not the fault of the person who assaulted you.”

Political Science and Women and Gender Studies student Laura Hernandez, shared her opinion.

“It’s On Us is a great initiative and I’m glad that the school took it on. However, I think the administration needs to take it seriously. It’s as if the campaign is an end all be all for sexual assault on campus but it’s not. There is much underreporting because of how people joke about rape on campus. It makes women lose confidence in the administration and police. The language they used is normalizing violence and how we should avoid being raped rather than actually teaching men to not rape,” Hernandez said.

It’s about the way we discuss sexual violence in everyday language like hearing “Bro, I just raped that test!” from a friend after an exam.

A university environment is the last place women should feel unprotected. No matter the circumstance, sexual assault is not okay and is -never- the victim’s fault. FIU needs to promote a proactive agenda instead of telling students to stay out of poorly lit areas.

Where in that email was the mention that sexual violence is a serious matter? Why does it seem that FIU was more concerned with being politically correct than embracing the opportunity to educate students more on the It’s On Us initiative? Or provide students with resources like CAPS or the Victim Empowerment Center?

It wasn’t included in that email because it isn’t prioritized in our everyday conversation.

Is our university’s commentary to students regarding sexual assault only worth an email blast of 121 words?

That 19 year-old-freshman, could be your classmate, best friend, sister or brother. Most of all, that person that was violated on our campus is an FIU Panther who deserves respect, recognition and protection from this entire university. We can’t sweep this under the rug.

Come on FIU, get with the program. It’s On Us.

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