Letter to the editor: Campus efforts falling short

Nassim Moallem

Co-Chair of the Student Subcommittee of the Sexual Violence Task Force, President of the Andrea O’Donnell Womyn’s Outreach Association

We live in a culture of violence. It means we tend not to think twice when we ask a woman if she is sure she is alright walking home alone at night. That women perpetually check that we have our pepper spray and keys in hand before heading to our cars. That we use language like “beat,” “raped” or “killed” to describe an experience like taking a test. It means we have adapted to living lives where we constantly expect to be attacked. To be the victim of yet another crime.

Rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment are experienced by students at our university and very little has been done to stop these crimes. This past summer, an audit was released looking into the way four California universities took on the issue of sexual violence. San Diego State was one of the four. All four produced poor results, called out on not having any educational material or proper training for faculty, and having areas where they were not complying with state law. There were — are — little to no processes in place equipping students to deal with a rape or sexual assault, and even less in regards to preventative education that would reduce the number of attacks.

Take Back the Week came from the student subcommittee working with the Andrea O’Donnell Womyn’s Outreach Association. Take Back the Week came from students trying to connect a need to end sexual violence back to other students. Take Back the Week was an important first, working to begin discussions and draw attention to the issue of sexual violence. Each day of the week we had a different theme: sexual violence awareness, consent is mandatory, masculinity and violence, day of healing, and take back the night. The programming consisted of workshops, informational sessions, discussion circles, two movie screenings, a protest and more.

In the wake of Take Back the Week however, I have concerns. I worry that the university’s support for Take Back the Week makes them feel they have done enough. I worry that Take Back the Week is going to be used as a diversion so that we do not see how much we are still lacking.

Take Back the Week is not the end of sexual violence on campus. Take Back the Week is the call to action. Take this. On our day focused on masculinity and violence, we screened “The Mask We Live In.” While the film did an excellent job highlighting the cycle of violence men experience, the film nor the panel afterwards did not do justice in connecting the violence men face back to the violence men perpetuate unto women. We are constantly learning about the male perspective. We are learning about how difficult it is to be a man in today’s society and the history of men’s struggle from elementary school. We do not talk enough about women. We do not talk about our suffering and the injustice, the terror we face at the hands of men. Instead we work to justify the violence. In order to end the violence we need to create an environment where we address the causes while offering solutions.

We need to start prioritizing this issue. Sexual violence is not a women’s issue, it is a community issue. We always talk about how the first step is about awareness; realizing sexual violence is a problem. So let us keep having the discussions, the questions, the consciousness raising. Talk to your friends, your family, your classmates and study groups. But the next step is to start asking more from them, from each other and the university. I am ready for the next step. I think we are all ready for the next step. Let us take it, together.


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