It’s been said before that it’s problematic how desensitized I am when it comes to how slack campus safety has been this past month. Personally, I would not call my reactions desensitized, but I’m not necessarily shocked by these comments either. Why would I be surprised when nothing is being done to stop what’s going on?
I’ve grown up in a world where things are always dealt with after the fact. Although this ideology can be okay in trivial situations, the same is not true when it comes to student’s safety.
Sure, there are procedures put in place for victims during an attack (blue lights, defense classes, etc.), but how about something preventative? Despite my familiarity with the phrase “it’s better to be safe than sorry”, I don’t often see it put into practice. Instead, I find myself and those around me a lot more comfortable with the saying “it’s better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” The latter, heavily centered around retroactive approaches, doesn’t do much for the most important step to keeping a campus safe: being proactive.
At Washington State University, prevention is mentioned close to ten times throughout their campus safety website. As for UNC Charlotte’s website, the word can be found three times—all programs again focused towards victims, not towards assailants. When you compare the two approaches, WSU had a total of 5 sexual assault and harassment reports in 2013. Charlotte has reached almost half of that number in the month of February alone. Despite how effective preventive approaches prove to be, UNCC continues to blame the victim, even including this statement in the University’s Annual Security Report: “The major theme of all the University’s campus crime prevention programs is to educate members of the UNC Charlotte community on how not to be a victim.” For instance, at the bottom of emails notifying students about criminal activity on campus, the recommended safety precautions involve walking in groups and even keeping flashy jewelry hidden. Yeah, okay, let’s blame campus robberies on someone’s accessories, that’s truly insightful. It is not a student’s job to constantly live in fear of an attack, it is the job of the university to make sure that they don’t happen in the first place. And if the campus is dead set on only educating the victim then outside public speakers, paid for by the school, should be made available to everyone, unlike the recent Harm Reduction Symposium that was offered to only Greek life council.
The fact is, bad behavior has normalized. We need to spend more time correcting children while they are young instead of ignoring their behavior and blaming it on “boys being boys” or “they’re just kids having fun.” The pattern of unconcerned parenting and an indifferent society leads to an escalation of an innocent push or kiss in the schoolyard to an assault or rape behind a parking deck. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “strategies focused on a potential perpetrator attempt to change risk and protective factors for sexual violence to reduce the likelihood that an individual will engage in sexually violent behavior.” The same principle applies for any kind of aggression. It’s not too late to switch the focus of safety programs from victims to offenders, it just needs to be done now. An example of this would be to swap one of the offered defense courses out for a program like “RealConsent,” a program geared towards addressing perceived social norms as well as the misconceptions about what sexual violence is and is not. Another course proven to be successful that deals with youth violence is called STRYVE, a program that works with communities to stop youth violence before it begins. It’s simple changes like this that can be the difference between two harassment cases in a month and two in a year.
I’m not here to say that the only reason people become criminals is because their actions were excused as a child. I am saying that education about campus safety is almost always geared towards potential victims, continuing to leave potential assailants in the dark about the damage their actions can cause to other people. I can say with full confidence that everyone I know has a common goal of stopping violence, but it seems as if those in charge of our safety have stopped working towards that goal. The CDC offers the public several approaches and resources to use that are going to waste. It is high time that the root of aggression and assault is stopped at the source, not once it becomes an even larger epidemic.