Oliver: Sexual Assault Awareness Month should be in October

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. However, moving it to October might protect more college students during their most vulnerable time of the year. 

The University of Oregon has a sexual violence problem. As Fall term begins and students get settled in Eugene, college life resumes. Freshmen attend their required “Get Explicit 101” Sexual Violence Prevention Training prior to lining the streets to rush fraternity and sorority houses. 

With all of the excitement surrounding the new school year, it is sometimes forgotten that “more than 50% of assaults occur in either August, September, October or November,” according to Rainn, an American anti-sexual assault organization.

University of Oregon President Schill, when appointed in 2015, made it clear that addressing sexual assault on campus was a priority. Research by UO Psychology Professor Jennifer Freyd showed that one in five UO undergraduate women surveyed reported rape, sexual assault or evading sex abuse. 

Results showed that students were unaware of the resources available to them if an assault were to happen. According to Dr. Freyds’ survey, only 34.8% of UO students reported they are very knowledgeable about where to get help if they experience sexual assault or misconduct, and only 26.8% are very or extremely knowledgeable about where to report an incident.

Another alarming finding in Dr. Freyds research revealed that less than half of students said they believe campus officials would take reports of sexual assault or misconduct seriously. 

If students do not trust that their reports of sexual assault would be taken seriously, it could skew data results that indicate that sexual violence on campus has decreased. According to the 2018 campus security and fire safety report, the number of fondling reports doubled, but reports of rape, stalking and dating violence decreased. There were a total of 41 reports, which is low considering that one in five UO undergraduate women reported experiencing some type of sexual abuse. 

Moving Sexual Assault Awareness month to October would show the university’s investment in protecting students during their most vulnerable time of year. 

During Sexual Assault Awareness month in April, the university partners with student-run organizations to implement trainings, prevention campaigns and offer resources to the UO community. 

Speakers come to UO to talk about sexual violence, displays are mounted and a “Get Explicit 101T” is offered to new UO students, faculty and staff. The month is dedicated to increasing students’ awareness about sexual assault and is packed with health information, prevention efforts and safe spaces for discussion. 

Unfortunately the timing of Sexual Assault Awareness Month comes too late in the year, as more than half of assaults occur when school starts in the Fall. 

The university should implement this awareness campaign as a preventative measure earlier in the academic year. In October, all students could begin their year with a reminder of resources, bystander intervention tips and other preventative measures. Sparking discussion across campus during the height of vulnerability could reduce the number of assaults drastically.