By Owen Lee, Staff Writer
Sexual misconduct, as a broad term including harassment, assault, and rape, is a very relevant topic at this moment.
Since Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was revealed to be a serial harasser with a long list of victims, there has been an introspective public discussion on the power men wield against women for sexual gratification.
Victims are sharing personal stories through #metoo, and perpetrators in scrutinized industries are being revealed, and sometimes even held accountable.
But where is our school in this discussion? Is UMass Dartmouth doing what it needs to, in order to protect students? Evidently the campus is taking measures to make sure that students are aware of this issue.
The school has numerous informational programs on the topic of sexual violence. For instance, for the month of October, the Department of Public Safety hosted the national Rape Aggression Defense Program, or R.A.D for short.
R.A.D. is a self-defense course designed to teach people how to defend themselves in the event of harassment or attempted rape. R.A.D Systems send instructors to all corners of America in order to teach people how to keep themselves safe in the event of an attack.
It was open to women only for the period it was being taught in the Woodland Commons.
A student-led organization, the House of Deliberations, is also trying to educate others. It’s an open club started by Eric James, a crime and justice major of the class of 2019, that is trying to get UMass Dartmouth students to ask insightful social and political questions.
House of Deliberations is a new club, having only formed last semester, and they meet bi-weekly in the Unity House to discuss key political questions. Most recently, in their fourth event of the year, they addressed the question, “Should we ostracize those charged with sexual assault?”
“Essentially what we talked about is there a victim blaming culture?” James told the Torch.
“At the end of it our entire membership agreed that it was harder to be a victim and come out than actually being charged with sexual assault. Even though that charge may go on your record, society just does the whole ‘innocent until proven guilty’ thing, to the point where they will harass the victim.”
When asked about the hope for the House, he said “I would like the House of Deliberations to get students thinking about the inequalities they face and the inequalities they enact on others.”
Resources also exist for victims of sexual assault. The website for Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion covers Sexual Violence Awareness has plenty of resources. It has some small emotional and legal advice for victims, as well as phone numbers for on-campus resources such as Health Services and Public Safety, as well as off-campus contacts such as the Dartmouth Police Dept., and the Women’s Center in New Bedford.
At the Community College of Rhode Island, over in Warwick, on October 12, a female student was sexually assaulted in broad daylight, in the parking lot of her own school.
The student remained anonymous for her own safety, and although authorities were contacted the case was dropped soon after.
An act of violence like that can absolutely destroy one’s trust in their school, their support systems, and even the people in their lives. In the case that a student is sexually assaulted on our campus, they need to be aware of how to defend themselves, know where they can turn to for assistance, and how to remain safe in the future.
It’s the school’s responsibility to keep its students safe. UMass Dartmouth is far from perfect, but at least it is getting resources out to those who may need it.
If you or anyone you know is a victim of sexual assault, utilize the resources offered on campus, or other national resources such as RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, who have a hotline available for victims of sexual assault. That number is: 800-656-4673.