The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Sexual assault on campus: Are Guilford students doing enough?

About one in every five women is sexually assaulted during college. The same is true for about 6.1 percent of college men. Numbers like these make it clear that institutions of higher education, including Guilford College, need to be doing more to prevent sexual assaults from occurring on their campuses.

Adequate education of students, faculty and staff alike on the issue of sexual assault is the most important element of prevention that Guilford is missing.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics defines sexual assault as “attacks or attempted attacks generally involving unwanted sexual contact between victim and offender.” Most people do not realize this definition includes much more than rape or even physical contact.

Guilford does take measures to prevent sexual assault and offer options to those who have fallen victim to sexual assault. On-campus escorts and whistles are available to students. Sexual Assault Awareness, Support and Advocacy and the annual Take Back the Night event raise awareness about the issue on campus, and Guilford’s counseling services are free to any student in need.

However, SAASA and Take Back the Night began at Guilford more recently than some may realize.

“When I first came here in 2008, Guilford did not have an institutional practice of having Take Back the Night every spring, which surprised me, given the kind of place it is,” said Julie Winterich, associate professor of sociology and anthropology and faculty advisor to SAASA.

Another recent addition is that of the Sexual Violence Prevention Committee, comprised of faculty, staff and students.

“The committee has been in existence for about a year,” said Director of Counseling Gaither Terrell. “It comes at a time when colleges across the country are paying more attention to sexual assault because of the Title IX issuance of the letter and the federal mandate.”

The 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter from the office of Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali regarding Title IX clarifies sexual harassment and assault as a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX. Part of the letter emphasizes the importance of education on sexual assault in institutions of higher education.

“Schools need to ensure that their employees are trained so that they know to report harassment to appropriate school officials, and so that employees with the authority to address harassment know how to respond properly,” the letter reads.

Much of the education provided to Guilford students in the past has focused on how to prevent oneself from being sexually assaulted. While helpful in some aspects, this can contribute to a victim-blaming mentality in the community.

“It amazes me that we don’t have education about consent in middle school and high school, let alone in college,” Winterich said. “From my perspective, in education that should be a key component.”

“We decided to do a campaign for next school year focused on consent,” said Terrell. “Our main focus is going to be consent and educating not just students but everybody on campus about consent, and about what to do if one is assaulted or if you see something happening or know somebody who’s been assaulted. There’s a lot of education that we need to do.”

While Guilford certainly needs to implement systematic education on sexual assault and consent, responsibility also lies with the students to educate themselves and to take the college’s core values to heart. Terrell encourages students to join the Sexual Violence Prevention Committee.

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