By Brenda Flanagan
Students went back to class at Rutgers, where some say women still get groped at parties.
“If you go to a party, and a guy will like grab your butt,” said Anne Murray. “Obviously I’m not pleased by it, about it, but it happens. And I feel like it happens too often to like to report it every time.”
But the problem goes way beyond getting groped, says grad student Courtney Anderson Harvey, who recently participated along with 11,000 Rutgers students in a massive landmark survey on sexual violence.
“When people go out and say ‘I’ve been sexually assaulted or abused,’ you’re looked at as an outcast, rather than as being, like, ‘Oh,’ like supportive,” she said.
“I feel as if people have been ignoring it and actually just turning their eyes away from it because it’s such a tough subject to actually address,” said Aria Fairman.
With complaints of sexual assault rising at campuses nationwide — including here in New Jersey — a White House task force created the questionnaire and Rutgers is the only university that asked its students to respond. It showed, almost a quarter — 24 percent– of freshmen women experienced some form of sexual violence or harassment, including catcalls, before they even got to Rutgers. Fewer than 8 percent of female sexual violence victims reported it to the university. More than half– 54 percent of students — want to learn more and they will, says Vice-Chancellor Felicia McGinty. The mission:
“Really trying to educate students how they can better understand what sexual violence is, what relationship violence is, and how they can be more active and engaged bystanders and hopefully interrupt the cycle,” she said. “No one has a right to touch you, in a way you don’t want to be touched.”
Rutgers just launched a new website that gathers together resources for students wanting information and help. It also created a public service announcement.
“We also believe if students are aware of the resources we provide then they’re more likely to access them,” said McGinty.
Every student must participate in a webinar that defines sexual harassment, dating violence and many welcome the guidance.
“For some people, it’s kind of ambiguous. What it means to sexually assault somebody. To really define that in a term it’s hard to do cause it’s so many things,” said Luke Wiley.
“I think it’s eye-opening. It’s something that needs to be addressed, and I’m glad that they are addressing,” said Harvey.
This fall the university will follow up with several events — including screening a documentary called, “The Hunting Ground,” about sexual violence on college campuses — in an effort to foster real change in the community here.