Sexual assault is a campus-wide concern

Tom Clowes

The author(s) of last week’s staff editorial, “Publicity should strive to inform,” overlooked the value of the messages of the National Sexual Assault Awareness campaign. Sexual assault is a problem at Lawrence University. While the numbers of reported assaults are few, undoubtedly many, many more go unreported. Considering also the number of people who have sexually assaulted or will assault another outside life at Lawrence, one can see there are many Lawrentians who need to be encouraged to commit themselves to respecting other people’s sexual decisions. It’s not about intellectual understanding. It’s about a personal commitment, and reminders of that commitment’s importance – like T-shirts marked “No means no” – encourage people to make it.The display of such T-shirts is also important for assault victims. For, too often, sexual assault victims blame themselves. The T-shirt messages remind those who have been or will be victims – and their families and friends – that sexual assault is never the victim’s fault.

Sexual assault affects virtually everyone at Lawrence. Given statistical evidence, we can assume that virtually every Lawrentian knows a sexual assault victim. As such, we all have a responsibility to fight sexual assault. We should, at the very least, commit ourselves to respecting others’ sexual decisions, not hesitate to make our commitment known, and be ready to support victims. Before taking even such basic steps, though, one must recognize the seriousness of sexual assault, which, uncomfortable and unpleasant, is easy to try to ignore. Perhaps that desire to avoid the unpleasant subject led the editorial’s author(s) to call the T-shirts “obnoxious,” “melodramatic,” and “none-too-relaxing.” But none-too-relaxing they must be: sexual assault is discomforting, but refusing to ignore it is the first step in fighting it. The T-shirts need not promote intellectual understanding of the issue; they need only prevent one from ignoring it and inspire action against it.

Other assault awareness information included more complete and informative dealings with the issue. If the Lawrentian staff still finds the amount of information insufficient, I urge them, committed as they surely are to the issue, to use their position to provide further information to fight sexual assault.

—Tom Clowes