Recently, there has been a lot of news coverage about sexual assault on university campuses, but it has been a problem for centuries and still continues to be. Wheaton is one of the many colleges around the globe that shares this particular horror. Just this semester there was a reported assault that took place before classes had even started. So what are we going to do about it? I, for one, am not going to sit by and do nothing.
Wheaton prides itself on being a community, but how can we be a community when we don’t respect each other enough to allow our partner to say “no”? This needs to change. One of the many things I would like to see change on this campus is how victims are treated. Going through a sexual assault is traumatic enough, but the aftermath (reporting the assault, having a rape kit done, the “interviews” that are more like interrogations) can be just as traumatizing. I would like to see student advocates for victims going through this process. A student advocate would be a peer whose one job is to look out for the victim, not the school’s reputation or the risk of lawsuits, but the victim’s well being. A designated hand-holder to be there through the rape kit, through the countless retellings of the assault, making sure the student isn’t forgotten for hours in a hospital waiting room or told to shower before an examination like so many are.
“We commit ourselves to behave in a manner which demonstrates concern for the personal dignity, rights and freedoms of all members of the community… We will not tolerate a lack of respect for these values.” This is our honor code. In the past, I feel many of us have seen the honor code mainly in terms of applying to our studies. I’d also like to see the Wheaton community acknowledge the promise we made to treat others with respect and actually do so. Didn’t we all sign this contract? Didn’t we all promise to abide by it? I see rape and sexual assault as a gross lack of respect for a fellow human being.
So I have a challenge: I challenge Wheaton to go throughout our days, our weeks, our semesters, and respect our fellow classmates, schoolmates, and human beings. Respect our right to say “no.”