By Savannah Koziol, Contributing Writer
On Oct.15, 1.7 million tweets went viral in 24 hours.
The #MeToo movement came from 85 countries and 12 million Facebook posts made by 4.7 million users responding to the sexual assault allegation against Harvey Weinstein.
Responses to the original Twitter campaign revealed that incidents of sexual harassment and assault continue to extend beyond Hollywood including college campuses.
A survey posted on Facebook indicated that EC students have or know someone who has been sexually assaulted or harassed both on and off campus.
The stories victims shared over the last several weeks continue to show perpetrators of sexual crimes exist in every aspect of American culture, and that anyone anywhere can be victimized.
“Anyone has the ability to be Harvey Weinstein. Anyone can be a predator and anyone can be prey,” said EC senior and Managing Editor of the Leader Roxanne Timan.
Though 78 women and counting came forward with their accusations against Weinstein, many still wonder why it took so long for them to share their experiences.
As a victim of sexual assault, Timan stressed that the answer to that question cannot be easily found.
She shared her own #MeToo story in the Nov. 21 issue of The Leader about her experience being sexually assaulted two years ago by a woman - a story she says she was reluctant to write about in her column because she believed her incident was such a small occurrence that it could potentially not be worth complaining about.
Even though the #MeToo movement and national statistics highlight the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault, the extent at which the issue occurs on U.S. college campuses may not be accurately reflected in federal reports.
Colleges in U.S. federal financial aid programs are required to submit federal-funded yearly reports of campus violence under the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, or Clearly Act; aiming to foster more supportive environments for victims to report sexual crimes, according to the Department of Education’s 2014 Federal Register.
Though this requirement was created with the intention of holding educational institutions accountable, recent data revealed a large percentage of schools may not be giving accurate data and statistics of reported crimes correctly.
In 2015, 89 percent of U.S. colleges reported zero incidents of rape, according to American Association of University Women’s [AAUW] analysis of data provided by schools to the U.S. Department of Education.
EC reported 34 incidents related to forcible rape, forcible fondling, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking from 2014-2016 in their 2016 Annual Security & Fire Safety Report.
“If these numbers were accurate there’d be cause for celebration, but we know for a fact they’re not,” said Lisa M. Maatz, former Vice President of Government Relations at AAUW.
In order to obtain a more accurate reflection of the prevalence of sexual harassment, assault, and misconduct at EC in 2017, a survey was created to be sent out to the student body intending to assess their experiences with these issues since enrolling at the college and if victims had reported their incidents or not.
After attempting to speak to several school officials within the Office of Student Affairs, the Office of Student Activities and the chair of the Institutional
Review Board at EC to get the survey approved, ultimately school officials said the subject matter of the survey “Wouldn’t be something that would be ideal to send to student organizations.”
The survey was still sent out informally online via a student led EC Facebook page.
The survey included students of all genders and levels of enrollment at the college; 96 percent of the participants, however, who responded were undergraduate students.
Additionally, 72 percent of students identified themselves as female, 21 percent identified as male, and 6 percent identified as transgender, queer or non conforming, questioning or not listed.
While only 81 students responded, the results revealed 40 percent of students reported experiencing sexual assault involving either non consensual penetration or sexual touching and 57 percent reported experiencing sexual harassment.
Though the majority of surveyed students had experienced some form of sexual harassment, 73 percent of these victims did not report their incidents to any campus or law enforcement officials.
Though only a small sample of students participated in the online survey, its results could potentially reveal an alarming disparity between the reported and actual number of incidents of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse that have occurred on the college’s campus over the last few years.
“I have known people who were sexually assaulted on campus and at a campus party and what not, so it’s obviously going on,” said survey participant and EC senior Clayton Spolum.
Considering 38 percent of students surveyed reported they believed incidents of sexual harassment, stalking, and intimate partner violence were very problematic at EC, students still may not report their own incidents out of fear that they are not important enough to disclose.
“It’s scary to me because a lot of the times my friends will nonchalantly bring that up, ‘Like oh I was kind of raped, or you know I was kind of sexually assaulted’ but it’s always under the table,” Timan continued. “‘A few years ago, it’s fine now’ when it really isn’t,” she concluded.
A survivor’s relationship with the offender also has a strong effect on the likelihood of them reporting, according to a study done by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Of the students who identified as victims in the survey, 59 percent responded that their offender was someone they knew: a friend, acquaintance, or intimate partner.
However, 21 percent of those victims indicated that they did not report their incidents because they did not want to get their offender into trouble given the fact that they knew them.
Even though colleges have been provided the tools to improve how they respond to sexual violence on their campuses, work still must be done so that survivors feel welcomed to report their incidents and are knowledgeable about resources available to support them.
“Honestly, knowing your resources, I feel like a lot of people don’t, honestly I don’t,” said Spolum, “I don’t know what the process of it would be. Because we were told the resources and the process years and years ago, and I feel like it needs to be refreshed.”
For students to continue to feel safe to coming forward with their incidents beyond the internet, experts say that organized and tangible efforts must continue to be made between school officials, the government, and all students, especially men, to push for greater transparency from academic institutions in their federal-funded yearly reports and statistics of campus violence.
“It’s important to know these statistics because people are not alone […] it’s okay to tell people of authority at this school,” Timan paused, “I think it should be okay. It should be okay and I think we need to be more audible about that as a campus, but also the administration as well to make sure it’s a safe space for people who are victims.”