We need mandatory sexual assault education

Credit: Paola Mathus/Visual Editor Credit: Paola Mathus/Visual Editor
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A few weeks ago, Carnegie Mellon released the results of the 2017 SARV study, which is focused on determining how many students are survivors of sexual assault and relationship violence, as well as students’ perceptions of how the university handles these issues, among others. While this year's freshmen class has a lower rate of sexual assault than in the past, one in four undergraduate women are still victims of sexual assault while being a student at Carnegie Mellon. In order to see a significant decrease in the undergraduate population affected by sexual assault, Carnegie Mellon needs to provide more resources to the Title IX office, make students more aware of how to file a report, and enforce mandatory sexual assault training.

Carnegie Mellon’s Office of Title IX initiatives currently only includes three full-time employees. According to the study, only two to six percent of assaults are reported to Carnegie Mellon. While the current staff may be able to handle this caseload, more resources need to be allocated to the Title IX office so more educational programs can be done to teach students how to file a report, as well as the different options available to them. An estimated 3,200 students experienced sexual assault (either attempted or completed) since enrolling at Carnegie Mellon. It is ludicrous for the university to only employ three full-time and one part-time employee to be responsible for the assaults of over 3,000 students. If the university provided the Title IX office with more adequate resources, it may not lead to a huge decrease in the number of assaults, but surely it would increase the number of people reporting and as a result somewhat lower the number of sexual assaults, since the perpetrators (in at least some cases) would be removed from the community.

As a current sophomore, I cannot recall a single moment when it was explained to me how Title IX handles complaints. If students are more educated on these complaints, it is much more likely they will report to Title IX if they were ever assaulted. This is extremely important, because not only can a Title IX investigation that finds the perpetrator guilty help protect students from future assaults but also the Title IX office can also provide students with resources on how to cope with the assault.

There also needs to be mandatory sexual assault training for all students. Currently, Haven, an online course about sexual assault, is required for all incoming freshmen. However, there is no enforcement if this training is not completed. Housefellows encourage students to finish Haven, but there are no repercussions if they do not. This makes the training appear more as an afterthought, as a way to pretend that the university is requiring students to complete this training but offering no consequences for those who do not. It is not a requirement at this point; instead, it is treated as a simple suggestion. Instead, this training should be required in order for students to join on-campus organizations. If they will be interacting with those in the community outside of the classroom, then this training should be mandatory.

While Carnegie Mellon is providing some resources, it is not doing enough. Hopefully, the university’s new leadership will prioritize sexual assault. Until then, it seems we will make limited progress, and just continuing the cycle of slightly lower rates, followed by a few conversations with university faculty, and then a new study. Most of the students here are hoping for the day when 100 percent of assaults are reported, and 100 percent of students complete the Haven training. Until then, we wait for the university to take the proper steps to make this a reality.