Take back the night

Sexual assault is a major societal problem that impacts all genders and ages. It’s a focus of concern on most college campuses, and statistics about the preponderance of sexual assault on college campuses abound, including here in Portland and on the Portland State campus.

Photo by Kayla Nguyen.
Photo by Kayla Nguyen.

Sexual assault is a major societal problem that impacts all genders and ages. It’s a focus of concern on most college campuses, and statistics about the preponderance of sexual assault on college campuses abound, including here in Portland and on the Portland State campus.

However, because of multiple barriers to reporting—and reasons a survivor may choose not to report—it’s likely that most of the statistics are actually too low. In fact, sexual assault and rape are the most underreported crimes in this country, and less than half of sexual assaults that occur are ever reported, according to the Women’s Crisis Line Handbook.

The WCL handbook also notes other astounding details: The data we do have from reported assaults suggests that 25 percent of women will be raped during their college careers, that every 2.5 minutes someone over the age of 12 in the United States is assaulted, and that one in five women and one in 33 men have experienced an attempted rape.

While many people are actively pursuing ways to diminish this problem, preventing sexual assault and supporting survivors is a very complex process, a fact that concerns many at PSU.

Luckily there are ways to raise awareness about these issues, to work to end sexual violence and to be an ally to survivors. One of those ways is fast approaching, and I highly recommend anyone concerned about the impact of sexual violence become involved with it.

Bike Back The Night/Take Back The Night is an annual event that takes place on campus and is cosponsored by the Women’s Resource Center and the WCL. The event seeks to raise awareness about the impact of sexual assault and intimate partner violence in our community, as well as provide a space for survivors to speak out.

Start now: There are plenty of ways for students to become involved with this year’s BBTN/TBTN. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the BBTN/TBTN will take place Thursday, April 25, from 6–8 p.m.

Want to help make a difference? Visit facebook.com/PSUTBTN. Stop by the WRC or email Cochair Erin Danielson at [email protected]

This year the theme of PSU’s BBTN/TBTN centers on the issue of Military Sexual Trauma—an important issue both on and outside of campus. It addresses sexual harassment or assault experienced by men and women serving in the U.S. military and encompasses any nonconsensual sexual activity.

In the military, a serviceman or -woman may feel pressure to not refuse unwanted sexual advances as a result of longstanding hierarchical structures. About 13.5 percent of all rapes and sexual assaults that occur within the military are reported, according to estimates by the Department of Defense’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Team. The military indicated that the number of reported rapes of service members in 2011 was 471, but that number is likely too low.

Because more men serve than do women, there are a number of male MST survivors. While BBTN/TBTN exists as a safe space for all survivors and those who wish to support survivors, this year’s theme will bring greater awareness to MST.

MST has recently been on the reproductive health care community’s radar because of attempts to block an amendment to the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, which helps servicewomen who are raped obtain access to abortion. Currently the amendment has bipartisan support in the Senate and was approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee, but House GOP members are likely to block it.

In June, Jezebel reported that an estimated several-hundred women serving in the military become pregnant as a result of rape each year. Currently, Congress forbids these women to pay out-of-pocket for an abortion in military health centers unless they can prove rape, incest or life endangerment. There have even been cases of servicewomen having significant career problems (including going to jail) when they chose to stay pregnant.

Since many of our military serve overseas, often in places where obtaining an abortion is costly, time consuming and difficult (for that matter, it’s becoming near impossible to obtain an abortion in some states in the U.S.), denying basic reproductive health care to overseas servicewomen who have become pregnant as a result of a sexual assault is reprehensible.

State Department employees currently have more rights and abortion access. As it stands now, only when the servicewoman can prove her life is in danger will the Pentagon provide abortion coverage, according to Mother Jones.

It’s absurd that some GOP members don’t trust women who choose to serve this country to make their own health care decisions.

Everyone should be doing everything they can to prevent sexual assault in whatever form it takes. And this starts within our own community. There are many avenues to become involved with sexual assault prevention at PSU, now and through spring term. PSU is home to a number of groups on campus that are actively working on these issues. Be concerned and make a difference. Seek them out.