With Spring Break approaching us once again, issues of sexual misconduct run rampant, coming to our attention more often than ever. Spring Break is a time in which people shake the past semester from their shoulders and let loose — at least, for a while. However, this season of joy and celebration is also a time where we must remind ourselves and others of behaviors and actions that are unacceptable.
In the past year, we have had movements such as “Time’s Up” and “#MeToo,” which have heightened our exposure to sexual misconduct. It would be silly of us to think that this only happens in the music and film industry. It would also be silly of us to believe it only occurs over Spring Break. Making yourself and people around you aware of situations involving sexual assault and misconduct is the first step to change. Before we can solve this problem, we must have the knowledge and strength to point it out.
Recent conversations at SGA’s Heart to Heart were focused on women’s rights and equality. This conversation opened the door for men in the group to ask questions they usually would not be comfortable in asking, especially to their male counterparts. It put them in a mindset, for only a moment, to experience how women feel most of the time, particularly in situations involving sexual misconduct. Asking questions and getting feedback is the next step to dealing with this universal problem. At the end of the day, sexual harassment and assault are not only women’s issues.
Next semester, on behalf of SGA, the Student Life Committee is launching a sexual assault awareness campaign. One of the primary focuses of this campaign is to encourage students not to be bystanders. A bystander is one who sees the actions unfolding and does nothing to prevent it or stop it.
A few years ago, in broad daylight, on the beaches of Panama City, a young girl was gang-raped by four men over Spring Break. With hundreds lined up on the beach that day, you would think someone would have stepped in. That was not the case. A bystander is just as guilty as the one performing the action.
With that, I challenge both women and men to actively participate in the conversation, for awareness is our best friend in this fight. Encouraging people to feel okay asking these questions allows for them to get answers to what is wrong, what is consent and what is assault. At the end of the day, we must remember people are not the victims of sexual assault because of the attire they had on, the alcohol they consumed or because they were nonverbally asking for it. People are victims because of their assaulters.