As we were going to press with this issue, a final fact needed to be changed in Sarah Stankorb’s story about sexual assault on local college campuses. A young woman named Roxanne van Dams e-mailed (just in time) to say that there was a small mistake in her biographical information. The story had stated that van Dams, who is a sophomore studying premed at the University of Cincinnati, “describes having been assaulted six times, twice since becoming a student at UC.” We’d gotten one word wrong, she said; it wasn’t six times, it was eight times.
That’s one word that should take your breath away. As Stankorb’s reporting makes clear, sexual assault is an insidious and seemingly rampant national problem that is cropping up more and more on college campuses. At the University of Cincinnati and Miami University, the situation has reached a level of concern that has attracted the attention of federal officials; both institutions are currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights for the way they handle reports of sexual violence on campus. The administrations at both schools recognize the seriousness of the issue. As Stankorb points out, a Sexual Assault Climate Survey conducted at Miami in 2015 found that “nearly 34 percent of student respondents reported experiencing one or more types of sexual assault or misconduct” and a similar survey at UC revealed that almost 17 percent of students on the main campus had “witnessed a situation they believed was or could have led to a sexual assault.”
With stats like that, how could administrators not take the issue seriously? But bureaucracies can move slowly, and one of the main reasons both Miami and UC are finally dealing with the matter head-on is because of the courage and fortitude of a small but vocal group of women who have refused to let the violence they say they have endured go unnoticed. The women call themselves survivors for a reason: The term victim implicitly takes power away from an individual, and they’ve had enough taken away already. Their goal is to change a system that has for too long shifted the blame in incidents of sexual assault off of perpetrators and onto victims.
I have a daughter. She is 10 and she dreams of going to college one day. My dream is that when she does, she never experiences the kind of pain and injustice that Stankorb’s story chronicles. If so, it will in part be because of the strength of young women like Roxanne van Dams who stood up and said, No more.