COLUMN: Sexual violence prevention policies need better enforcement on campus

Sexism as violence pervades all aspects of women’s lives. Objectification, dehumanizing harassment and unsolicited sexual contact leaves a bitter but familiar taste on every woman’s tongue.

University women, in particular, endure this treatment as they try to accomplish their professional and personal ambitions.

But systemic sexism, coupled with university bureaucracies and police departments that often neglect the needs of assault survivors create cumbersome barriers for college women wanting to report an assault.

This is why feminist policies like Title IX and successive sex-discrimination legislation must be enthusiastically adopted by universities to ensure a fair environment for students and to protect the livelihood of women on campus.

Sexual violence statistics show that one in five women experience an attempted or completed assault while in college, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s widely cited Campus Sexual Assault Survey.

Eighty percent of these incidents among students age 18 to 24 go unreported, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Indiana University’s statistics aren’t far off from the national average.

The 2014 Campus Climate Survey found that 17 percent of undergraduate women experienced attempted or completed rape while at IU. Eighty-six percent of those who experienced a sexual assault did not report the incident to a surveying IU facility.

Title IX, a federal amendment passed in 1972, was widely regarded as a revolutionary and controversial sex discrimination law that prevented women in universities and educational programs from being discriminated against or denied basic rights on the basis of sex.

The law was born out of observed discrimination toward women in academics and athletics. However, the law has been instrumental in combating forms of sexual misconduct, such as harassment, assault and rape, as these are all legally forms of sex discrimination.

Know Your IX, a student-led organization that focuses on combating sexual violence at schools, is trying to increase understanding of how Title IX work by advocating for the rights of sexual assault survivors.

Earlier this week, it released its State Policy Playbook for ending campus sexual assault. The manual takes a comprehensive look at the relationship between campus policies, state governance and the ways Title IX can protect assault survivors.

According to the playbook, the best actions schools can take are to create clear and accessible definitions of consent and gender-based misconduct.

Students must have ready information about the resources and accommodations offered to them by their universities. Colleges need to be responsible for letting students know of the different reporting and disciplinary options available to them, as well as who at their school is a mandatory reporter.

Universities must also disseminate information about what their Title IX Coordination Office does and how students can contact them.

Campuses need to be the best advocates for assault survivors and fight against gender-based discrimination like sexual violence. By not doing so, colleges fail to let female students thrive and miss the mission of fair education.

IU Bloomington students who wish to report a sexual assault or harassment can do so by contacting the IU Police Department or Bloomington Police Department, the IU Office of Student Ethics or IU Title IX Coordination. On-campus counseling for survivors is available through the IU Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and Sexual Assault Crisis Services (SACS), as well as the University’s Confidential Victim Advocates program. Additional resources and contacts can be found at stopsexualviolence.iu.edu.

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