This past Sunday, three separate sexual assaults were reported to the Cornell University Police Department. Our thoughts are, first and foremost, in support of the survivors of these incidents. When events like these occur, it changes the lives of the survivor, their loved ones and also the community they are a part of.
It is dangerous to believe that sexual violence at Cornell occurs sporadically; chances are you know someone who is a survivor of sexual violence. Rape doesn’t only occur in dark alleyways. In many instances of sexual assault on college campuses, perpetrators are also acquaintances. Coercion may take place on a dance floor or under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances. Sexual violence can happen between strangers, acquaintances and even in close relationships. This past year, the Judicial Administrator heard a record number of sexual assault cases. The incidents last Sunday are another reminder of the significance of this problem. We are only aware of a small fraction of the overall number of incidents Cornell, leaving a larger number of unreported sexual assaults.
Our best defense against sexual assault is twofold; while administrators ensure that students are safe and protected on campus, students must engage in meaningful dialogue about what constitutes consent.
We cannot assume that Cornell’s status as an Ivy League institution protects us from violent crime. This false belief must be eliminated with increased safety precautions and programs, which will help students feel safe on campus and in Collegetown. Education and honest conversations about the issue of sexual assault on our campus are necessary if we seek to ameliorate this terrible problem.
The worst and most dangerous thing about what happened on Sunday is the general attitude toward the assaults. It is not a subject to make jokes about and it certainly isn’t something to take lightly. It is one of the most traumatic events that can happen to someone, man or woman. Until we can start to intelligently and compassionately talk about the subject, then there is no hope of changing the environments that allow rape to occur. It is time for students to actively and articulately voice their opinions to the administration about the safety needs of our community. At the same time, we must be diligent in finding solutions. Programs like the Cayuga’s Watchers Initiative, put forward by S.A. President Adam Gitlin, are perfect examples of how students can have an active part in keeping our community safe. Maybe it is time for the administration to put forward concrete plans in educating all incoming and current students about sexual assault. Students can and should be the first line of defense.
All of us deserve to give consent to whomever we CHOOSE to have sex with, and each and every one of us deserves to say no. Until we respect the person whom we are sleeping with, then the potential for unsatisfactory, and even unwanted, sexual encounters will still occur. It’s a problem that affects everyone, so let’s make everyone part of the solution.
Geoffrey Block ’13, Rachael Blummenthal ’13, Shuangyi Hou ’13, Allie Riggs ’13 and Bidgette Wunder ’14 contributed writing to this piece.
Leah Salgado graduated in 2012 from the College of Arts and Sciences. She works in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Guest Room appears periodically this semester.