The magnitude of the media coverage on the sexual assault lawsuit against Pacific University has been the hot topic in all conversations around campus recently, which I completely understand.
As a journalist and an activist though, I really want to urge people to use this as an opportunity to have some very important and very difficult conversations about sexual assault.
We all know sexual assault is prevalent on college campuses.
One in five women, one in 16 men and one in two transgendered students are sexually assaulted or raped by the time they walk on the day of graduation.
There are very clear messages about what universities are and are not doing to address sexual assault that any one of us can see as we scroll through the media.
But we have an opportunity here to get a wider variety of students, faculty, staff and community members involved in a conversation about the rape culture on this campus, our home.
As an activist with a very personal and very passionate tie to sexual assault, it is very frustrating to see the same people showing interest in the issue of sexual assault.
I am always inspired by those who do show their dedication and I in no way mean to derail them, but the goal is always to reach the widest audience. I know very well that Pacific can do better in that regard.
This is why, in an odd way, I am very grateful for this lawsuit reaching the media and catching fire.
I do not agree with the way some media outlets are covering the story but, if nothing else, they are bringing the issue of sexual assault home to Pacific.
At the Town Hall meeting addressing the lawsuit, I saw more people than I ever have with genuine interest in the culture at Pacific and that was inspiring.
It is heartbreaking a classmate of ours was sexually assaulted and I think more students will have more solidified opinions about the lawsuit as it unfolds, but I urge us not to forget the larger issue at hand.
Use this as an opportunity. We should be asking about the resources both on and off campus for students.
We should be asking about disciplinary proceedings and how often this happens here and what the university does about it.
Sexual assault is a real tangible danger that we are all vulnerable to, despite our gender and orientations.
Because of this case, I had the opportunity to sit down and interview the Forest Grove Police Captain Mike Herb and Sergeant Matthew Smith about how the police department deals with sexual assault and the resources students can find through them.
They told me not only can students get a completely anonymous rape kit done if they have been assaulted, but they can also go to the police with any report and if they choose not to move forward with it, their decision will be respected.
Sexual assault survivors can essentially collect evidence completely anonymously with no pressure to move forward, just in case somewhere down the line they choose to file an official report.
I consider myself a fairly adept person when it comes to sexual assault and I did not know everything they told me.
Because of this lawsuit case, I saw how much the police department truly cares about advocating for survivors and how much they value the respect of privacy and a victim’s wish.
This is just one example of what we can learn from this case. It is a very serious allegation and I in no way mean to take it out of the spotlight.
I think as time goes on and it develops, it will make for a very illuminating and, at the very least, enticing story. But it is not the only story.
Let’s start talking about stories. Your story, my story, campus wellness’ story, the university’s story. Let’s band together and jump on this opportunity to create discussion throughout campus.
Please do not let this case just center around the identities of the victims or what the attorneys are saying.
While all of those things are important, we have a right to know the realities of sexual assault on our campus.
And remember that your friendly neighborhood student newspaper cares about your well-being and wants to help keep this discussion going.