We Need to Talk: Sexual Assault on Campus

So this post was a long time in the making, because for a long time I’ve been trying to word my thoughts correctly, because topics about injustices often turn into rants. I want these ideas to be taken seriously as the issue of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape is something that often gets dismissed because the discussion is sensitive, harsh and loud and the exchange of ideas is lost when people get offended.

I want to talk first about about sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is very hard to identify and define. One person could not be offended by someone’s actions whereas another person could feel violated. I bring this up because when people are not on the same page about what is defined as harassment, then that is when walls get thrown up, people get offended, and an actual discussion about sexual harassment is again, shut down.

Being a Public Relations major, I’ve always been really interested and even fascinated by the media.  We have so many different platforms where we can get our message across. So many different and unique platforms for different ideas and messages to be conveyed.

YouTube is a unique platform, because there are people on there who make these videos of different genres and share them, on a periodic basis. It’s almost like having your own personal TV show. They have growing fan bases and they’ve become these kinds of influencers where young people, look up to them. Recently over the weekend, there was a particular YouTube Star, Sam Pepper, who released a prank video. The video (which I will not post on my own personal website) was about him, pranking girls on the street by pinching their butts without their permission and without them knowing. The video is so painful to watch as these girls are confused and clearly uncomfortable as he violates them on camera. One girl even says, “I don’t like that,” and instead of an apology, he laughs and proceeds to hug her.

The reason I bring up the Sam Pepper video is because, he does not understand that by doing this, he’s sexually harassing women. Because if he understood, there is no way this would have ever been made. These women were clearly targeted. Young. Pretty. Alone. Vulnerable. As someone with a fairly large fan base ( an “Influencer” if you will) going around and targeting young women is not something that should be made into a “comedy video.”

Youtube-Famous, is very weird in that, people don’t know whether to consider these people celebrities, so it’s very hard to point fingers at them and say, “you have a social responsibility to your young audience to not act misogynistic  and uphold good values.” They don’t have any laws telling them what they can and can’t say. They can be offensive and use offensive language and talk about very crass things because, their videos are not for TV, and the FCC hasn’t gotten to them yet.

This video, who’s audience is largely targeted towards young girls, is very problematic. Many comments on the video were saying, “it’s okay he was just trying to be funny” or “it’s okay because he’s cute.” Some comments were harsher and directed towards the women who were featured in the video, and some were in fact saying how Sam Pepper was very wrong for promoting and participating in this kind of humor and activity, which is indeed identified as sexual harassment. Sexually harassing women for humor to further build your brand and career as a “Youtube Sensation” is something that needs to be condemned. This gray area, that I call the Internet, allows for a lot of freedom of expression and now it allows for people to start to have actual careers making these 5 minute videos so that kids especially can watch them and laugh. Sexual harassment however, is not something that should be taken lightly. Condoning sexual harassment on a very popular media platform, can only lead to worse things happening.

The title of this post references to campus life; Sexual Assault on Campus. I attend Penn State University. One of the most well known schools, and the best schools in the country. I’m blessed to be here, and be in school, and I love it here. However, here on campus things aren’t going great. Just this semester alone (as of August 25, 2014) there have been six sexual assaults reported. Three of which happened just last weekend. Three in one weekend. Isn’t that just mind blowing. And the reports that I get, sent straight to my cell phone, name streets that are just right down the road from me, or buildings that I pass by or go into everyday. Places that I call my home where innocent people are getting attacked.

There is always the buzz phrases and advice, “girls should walk in groups,” “don’t wear revealing clothing,” “call for help if you feel unsafe,” “yell ‘fire’ if something is happening because people won’t come to help if you yell ‘rape.'”

This is the part where people get defensive. Now the phrases are “don’t teach boys to take advantage of girls,” “teach our boys to not feel the need to assert their masculinity over women in order to feel powerful,” These are all great because we are changing the conversation and working our way towards a conversation where we no longer shame victims or victim blame.

Yes, men get sexually harassed. Yes, men get raped. Yes, men are victims. And this is all part of the conversation that needs to be had in order to stop these kinds of crimes from happening. I am not disregarding the fact that there are a lot of cases, that aren’t regularly talked about, where men are victims to sexual crimes. It is just more prominent for women. These issues should not be dismissed from conversation because it’s a “women issue.”

We aren’t having a conversation about the increased number of sexual assaults on campus. There is just no way it is happening because these crimes keep happening. What is the board doing in order to make it’s students feel safe around campus? What kind of punishments are being given to the offenders? What are we doing as a community to prevent these crimes from happening again? One sexual assault is too many, but six? We need to talk, and more importantly we need to act.

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