I want you to imagine you’re a survivor of sexual assault. Although I hope that is never the case for anyone reading this, the truth is that as a woman, you have a 25% chance. As a man, a 3% chance.
Recently, the Obama administration has begun taking action to end sexual assault on college campuses. They have started making more resources available, began getting tougher on colleges who don’t follow protocol, and released a new campaign to bring awareness to the issue.
Many people have claimed that these efforts are too little too late. How is a video clip featuring President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Daniel Craig, and a bunch of different actor going to help lessen this 1 in 4 statistic? It seems impossible, right? These men are just wasting our time with another PR campaign to improve their own images.
Although I can’t speak to the motivations behind this campaign, I must express my opinion that this effort is not too little too late. Yes, sexual assault on college campuses is rampant. And yes, this has been going on for a long time. And no, this PSA will not magically end all sexual assault.
But think about what you insinuate when you say this: that sexual assault is somehow a problem with a solution. Although teaching consent to our youth as a normal part of sex would do an incredible amount for lessening instances of sexual assault, the truth is sexual assault will never just end. It is something that will always exist in this country and in every country.
However, what these campaigns are trying to do is demonstrate that in addition to consistently asking for consent and looking out for others in possibly dangerous situations, we must all bear the responsibility of supporting sexual assault survivors.
This is something our country needs. You can try to deny it all you want. But think about it- the police department of Washington, DC was recently investigated by Human Rights Watch for mishandling sexual assault cases. Let me reiterate: the police department of our nation’s capital violated human rights by mishandling sexual assault cases.
Let me give you another example. Sarah Palin, prior to becoming a vice presidential candidate, put policy forth that charged rape survivors in her district for the cost of their rape kits. Let me reiterate again: Someone who was running for vice president of our country withheld necessary medical procedures from rape survivors unless they were able to provide monetary compensation.
Now these may be some more highly publicized cases. But the truth is that in many parts of this country, sexual assault survivors face limited resources and support. Instead, their experiences are continually trivialized. Their dress, drug/alcohol use, and sexual history are continually used as a basis for placing blame on them.
So, when President Obama told all sexual assault survivors, “I have your back,” that wasn’t too little too late. He demonstrated that although sexual assault can’t be suddenly “fixed,” we, as a nation, owe it to survivors — to our survivors — to support them. To have their backs.