Obama’s step is important, but only part of a long path tackling college sexual assault

By The Transcript Editorial Staff

The current epidemic of sexual violence on college campuses in an issue that is all around us, but is rarely seen and even more rarely discussed openly.

That changed last week, when President Obama took an unprecedented step in acknowledging the problem on Jan. 22, with the release of the report “Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action.”

The White House report, which declared that women in college are at a greater risk of sexual violence than anyone else in America, shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

This is not a just an issue that occurs in a few colleges and high schools around the nation, or in faraway countries, or just women, but a public health crisis that affects every town and every university in the United States.

Most of the time the media, as servants of the public interest, fail to focus adequate attention to the topic.

If a study found that only 12 percent of terrorist attacks (or, based on their recent headlines, Justin Bieber DUI incidents) were being reported to law enforcement, CNN would be covering it every day; if studies showed 1 in 5 people were experiencing any crime at all and it could be connected in some way to exclusively African-American men as perpetrators, Fox News would be covering it every hour.

But reframe those statistics to their original context—college sexual violence—and the numbers only receive attention when they’re released in a study and announced by the President of the United States. Yes, individual incidents receive national press for a few days, but the overall issue and the culture continuing it are almost never brought up.

In almost every case, journalists are missing the forest for the trees, and by doing so we fail in our duty to serve the public interest and present the full spectrum of human experience, even when it is not what people want to be told.

As the editors of the independent newspaper and guardians of the public interest on this campus, we hope to avoid this oversight and focus on what really affects students on campus. Sexual violence is definitely one of those things.

It should also be noted that sexual violence is not limited to college campuses, but occurs with increasing frequency in high schools, in the home, in places of worship, in the military—everywhere in our society.

But as both students and journalists, it is college sexual violence that we must focus on primarily.

Throughout this semester, and into the future, we will shine a spotlight on this under-reported issue, using a variety of tools of the journalistic trade: investigative reporting into the frequency and results of sexual violence on this campus, coverage of OWU-related events to raise awareness, and more opinion pieces from our staff, both individually and as a board.

We also welcome letters to the editor and columns on the topic from our community’s survivor advocates with Counseling Services and HelpLine; from activists; members of the university administration; Public Safety and Delaware police officers; and from survivors themselves.