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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Opinion: Sexual assault needs to be redefined

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#MeToo.png

Law enforcement needs to re-educate society and themselves on what constitutes a reportable sexual offense.The system has showcased an unclear pattern with handling reports of sexual assault and that is unacceptable.
Roughly 81% of women and 43% of men have experienced some form of sexual harassment throughout their lifetime. Too many women find themselves being picked apart while reporting their attack and then getting turned away at the last minute feeling like the whole situation was their fault.
Law enforcement has been marginalizing victims of sexual assault for a long time and it ends now. Women and men should never be more afraid of reporting a crime over experiencing it. Instead of focusing primarily on the assault, law enforcement should shift their focus towards educating the general public on what validates a reportable sexual offense and restore the meaning of sexual assault within the status quo to avoid the fear of reporting.
The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, or RAINN, states, “sexual assault is characterized by sexual contact of any kind without the consent of the victim.” Sexual contact of any kind includes rape, attempted rape, unwanted sexual touching or forcing someone to perform sexual acts against their will. Even so, not all instances are deemed worthy of being categorized as “severe enough” to qualify as a “true” sexual assault. Not only is this claim absurd, but it is also disheartening for victims who are willing to speak out.
The Me Too movement has succeeded in shifting focus onto the experiences of sexual violence survivors and shown just how common sexual assault remains. However, despite the societal influence MeToo has unfurled upon society, many critics have raised their eyebrows at the alarming increase in accusations nationwide, and for good reason.
While the organization has increased the amount of reported crimes, it has had little effect on crimes that were actually cleared by police, giving ammunition to those who oppose and criticize the movement. Many victims who have reported a sexual assault incident have been overlooked by law enforcement due to the level of severity, or lack thereof.
Men and women already hold different views on what exactly constitutes sexual harassment. Men are often left confused over their actions which they perceived to be harmless, while women who report sexual harassment are deemed overly sensitive. This is not, and will never be, a “boys will be boys” scenario. The idea that men do not realize their intolerable behavior is alarming.
Yet, it is hard to imagine such a crime against humanity until you endure it.
According to a startling statistic from RAINN, the majority of sexual assault victims are younger people, with 54% of victims falling between ages 18-34. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center found that 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report their assault. More than likely, it is because victims in college might think their allegation may be swept under the rug.
The disappointing reality of ignoring serious allegations occurred close to home last September, as Texas State officials announced the university misreported Clery reportable offenses on the annual Campus Security Report Reform. Vice President of Finance and Support Services, Eric Algoe said there were six reported rapes in 2016 and zero in 2017. The updated data reflected a staggering miscalculation of 21 reported rapes in 2016 and 15 in 2017; revealing 30 previously unreported rapes and shocking the community of San Marcos.
Unfortunately, sexual assault will remain a force to be reckoned with at Texas State. The massive misreporting of sexual assaults has only enhanced the degradation of victims attending the university and brought unease to the student body. Texas State should feel endless shame.
Regardless, it does not change the fact that law enforcement needs to express the meaning of a reportable sexual offense. If a woman or man comes forward with a charge, it should be taken seriously. The brutality or gruesomeness does not matter, what matters is the degradation one feels after experiencing a sexual offense of any kind.
The Me Too movement has given victims a safe outlet to share their stories, but there is more work that needs to be done in respecting their experiences and allowing them to feel validated. Law enforcement can make the change necessary for providing victims a safe place to speak up.
-Amira Van Leeuwen is a journalism sophomore 

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