Editorial: Take responsibility—report sexual assault

Rape. This one act—this one crime—is not just something that occurs between a victim and a perpetrator. It involves all of us.

Sexual assault and the way it is treated in our society signifies something about the culture we are a part of.

Sex is still such a “hush-hush” topic that when sexual assault comes up, it stuns everyone too.

Too often, we just hand the responsibility back to the victim as if it is their fault. We will offer self-defense classes, we will give tips on types of neighborhoods and areas to avoid, and we will tell them to not “hang with the wrong crowd.” But what can we do?

Simple: When a situation looks dangerous, even if you yourself are not involved, report it.

In our news feature this week, national statistics reveal sexual assault cases remain vastly under-reported at Georgia State.

Approximately 14 percent of sampled undergraduate students in a national study reported being sexually assaulted since they began college. Take that number and apply it to our fall 2011 student population (32,022), and approximately 4,387 students had the potential of being sexually assaulted since starting college. For fall 2012, out of 32,087 students, the number was roughly 4,396.

Only four sexual assault cases were reported at Georgia State in 2011 and eight in 2012.

Why is it that these cases go so underreported?

Recently, the federal government has been investigating institutions on how they handle their sexual assault cases. Emory University is the only Georgia institution currently being investigated.

This week, it came to our attention that Emory University broadcasts and sends out an email alert about sexual assault reports on campus, similarly to how our university alerts the campus system about robberies around campus.

The Emory Wheel, the independent student newspaper of the university, released a Facebook post Sunday, Aug. 30 stating a female reported a sexual assault on campus. The suspect was then described as a “perpetrator… approximately 20-year-old white male with brown hair.”

Finally—rape being treated like what it really is: A crime. a crime with a perpetrator and a display of transparency on the part of Emory University. Granted, the university is under investigation, but is that what it takes to put light to this crime?

In our feature on underreported sexual assaults, a survivor, Hannah Lengyel, told her story to The Signal. After being raped by a male she knew at a party, several bystanders saw her distraught condition. All they could ask was simply, “Do you need any help?”

Sure, help would be nice. But you could do a lot more than just ask. That’s not enough to lessen this stigma of being a survivor of sexual assault.

Lengyel courageously ended up reporting the sexual assault herself a week later, but mostly because she had been a victim previously and did not want it to happen again. We need to have that same mentality as a society. We must speak out on it to prevent future cases. We must report what we see as if we witnessed a crime because that’s exactly what it is: a crime.

If we spoke out more as both a university and as a society at large, then victims of sexual assault, whether they are male or female, may not be so hesitant to speak out themselves. Certain sections of society often look with disdain at sexual assault victims by trying to find excuses as to if they “had it coming”.

After a sexual assault has been reported, we need the institutions we are a part of—our university—to follow up on these cases and to be transparent with us, just as Emory University has been with their students. Let us know when a rape is reported. Let us know how perpetrator looks. Let us know rape is a serious crime.

And to the female who reported that sexual assault on Emory campus: Whether you were the victim or a bystander, we commend you. That is exactly the action we all need to take to move onto the next step towards change.