Letter from the editor: Why we’ve dedicated today’s issue to sexual assault awareness

One year ago this week there was a shift in consciousness at the UO in regards to sexual violence. In the letter from the editor, we can all come together to overcome the cultural and political obstacles that stand in our way.

About a year ago, there was a shift in consciousness at the University of Oregon.

An accusation of gang rape and speculations about athletic privilege and administrative oversight rocked the campus. Suddenly, the attention of thousands of students, advocates, faculty members and administrators was focused around one issue: sexual assault.

Sexual assault on college campuses is nothing new. Advocacy groups like Take Back the Night have been raising awareness about assault since the 1970s, and there’s been no shortage of that activism, research or student attention to the issue at UO over the years. But in 2011, that attention was raised to a new level when the Department of Education released a “Dear Colleague” letter reminding federally funded institutions of their obligation to protect students from sexual assault under a federal education amendment called Title IX that protects students against sex-based discrimination.

The letter reminded campus administrators of the grim nature of the crime: 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted during her time in college, survivors often suffer academically and can be susceptible to depression, PTSD and substance abuse, and the crime is vastly under-reported – often because of a lack of support or shaming of those who do come forward.

Since the letter, survivors across the country have bravely brought their stories to light, demanding action from the institutions that allowed for their harm and inviting a cascade of investigations against universities and a media storm of campus assault coverage.

Last May, the UO became a part of that coverage. Advocacy groups rallied, outcry sparked campus awareness and institutional reforms to protect students and survivors became a priority across student groups and campus departments.

That was one year ago this week.

In the following pages, you’ll find an entire issue dedicated to that conversation — what’s been said, what’s been done and how people are feeling about progress toward the UO’s new collective goal:

Ending sexual violence.

Our coverage is intended to educate those who are unaware of the issue, to engage the UO community in the conversations defining our response to the issue and to inspire every member of the UO community to stand up against sexual violence in their own way.

We need to maintain our focus on this important issue until college campuses are no longer a breeding ground for sexual violence. Until survivors of such hideous crimes feel safe and comfortable seeking support from their friends and the administration. Until the rape culture stops. Until no member of campus is objectified or violated in any way, shape or form.

Only together can we overcome the cultural and political obstacles that stand in our way.

Here’s a look at what’s in print and online:

A breakdown of the reporting process at the UO

• What the University of Oregon administration has done in the last year to tackle the issue of sexual assault on campus

There’s also a search underway for a vice president for sexual assault, whose job it will be to coordinate efforts at the university

Groups such as SWAT, OASA and SASS provide resources for survivors and students curious about prevention

A task force within Fraternity and Sorority Life is charged with changing a culture over the course of a year

Tanner Owens, one our columnists, discusses men’s role in helping end sexual assault

• Our editorial board’s stance on the progress the UO community has made in the last year: We’ve made strides, but we need to reach across the aisle and collaborate more if we want to move forward

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