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Staff Editorial: Emma Sulkowicz, “Yes Means Yes”, and sexual assault on college campuses

Recently, Columbia University organization No Red Tape held a protest leaving twenty-eight mattresses on campus in support of Emma Sulkowicz and her “Carry that Weight” project. Sulkowicz’s case of sexual assault and mistreatment from the university have gained a great amount of exposure. In light of this, 130 universities in 30 states and five countries have shown solidarity for her and other rape and sexual assault victims. However, in this case, there was mishandling of the protest from administration, leading to a hefty fine and mattresses in the trash within an hour of protesting.

The Campanil felt a great amount of triggering emotions when discussing sexual assault on college campuses, from anger to shock to hurt.

Columbia University’s recent mishandling of protests and sexual assault cases shows a disturbing trend of the mistreatment of victims/survivors of sexual assaults on campuses. The Campanil recognizes all of the problems of this, from filing reports to the shaming that occurs with it from peers. We see that these cases are picked and torn apart through victim blaming and constant questioning, making them feel isolated and regret their choice to report it. It gives the idea that administrators do not and will not care about the well-being of sexual assault victims and survivors on campuses, even in the future.

Recently California governor Jerry Brown signed the “Yes Means Yes” bill, which defines when “yes means yes” for sexual encounters and gave requirements for colleges and universities to follow when investigating sexual assault reports. Although this is a big step for California and its colleges and universities, there are still underlying problems within it. For instance, The Campanil sees double standards for women and men and the subtle heteronormativity in the bill. In short, how can that apply to those students here at Mills outside those categories? Overall, the bill shows that there is still more work to be done.

According to the CDC’s fact sheet done in 2012, 19 percent of undergrad women experienced attempted or completed sexual assault since entering college. However, The Campanil notices that there are very few studies on sexual assault on campuses for the queer community and males. At the same time, we also acknowledge the disparities in sexual assault cases for women of color, as well as the few statistics for it.

The Campanil notices not only the difficulties and sensitivity with this discussion, but also the problematic implications that come along with it. We recognize that many colleges and universities have a lot of work to do in regards to addressing sexual assaults on campuses. As students, we must stand in solidarity with sexual assault victims and help them to realize that they deserve agency and better treatment, from giving them more safe spaces to report their attacks to resources to let them heal. We must make steps in order to make that beginning of something beneficial for sexual assault survivors, for them to move forward and gain a sense of closure.