Last weekend, I had the privilege to learn about the research being done by undergraduates across the country. While there was a great variety of disciplines and topics represented in the presentations, one stood out to me as a female university student: sexual assault. Research spanned from the effects of sexual assault on self worth to how university students offered support to survivors who came to them for help.

At Elon University and elsewhere, it was clear that students view sexual assault as a major problem on college campuses. Outside of their lived experiences, the statistics confirm their concerns. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women are sexually assaulted while in college. 

In the last year, we’ve watched the criminal justice system fail to serve justice to survivors. This system lets convicted rapists such as Brock Turner face less jail time because of the perceived impact jail time would have on his life, rather than the impact the initial rape and trial had on the survivor. We watched as a man who admitted to sexually assaulting women was elected president.

For better or for worse, the Elon bubble doesn’t keep out the toxic ideas about gender and consent that contribute to the problem of campus sexual assault.

While it is reassuring to know that students across the country and at Elon recognize this problem — we can see this through the SGA open forum on sexual assault this past month — it still begs the question of why it feels like it is not a priority on campus.

The student body just raised more than $350 thousand for patients and families at Duke Children’s Hospital. The university hosted an open forum for student input on the presidential search.

These are great things happening at Elon. They show the possibilities, what can happen when students can do when they put their mind to it and how receptive university administration is to student input.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. We’ve seen what you can do for the kids, so now let’s see what you can do for survivors on our campus. It doesn’t cost you any money and it doesn’t require that you dance all night (but I doubt anyone would stop you if you wanted to keep dancing).

Helping make campus safer for everyone doesn’t have to be a time commitment you need to juggle between assignments and intramurals — it just means that you take sexual assault seriously.

It means being an active bystander at parties and stepping in if you don’t think someone’s in the state of mind to be able to consent.

It means that if your friends confide in you that they’ve been assaulted or raped, you don’t ask them what they were wearing or what they had to drink. It means you believe them, regardless of their gender or past sexual experiences.

It means that you ask for consent without the threat of intimidation when you’re with a partner. It means that you don’t take advantage of someone who is intoxicated or asleep. It means you don’t assault or rape anyone.

We have a wonderful community here at Elon, and we are able to do some amazing things when we put our minds to it. This month, let’s focus some of that energy on preventing sexual assault on our campus and on providing support for the survivors among us.