Thursday USF hosted a conference called Title IX: Moving Towards Diversity and Equity, which focused on educating the community about Title IX. But while raising awareness of the issue of sexual assault is a positive step towards change, universities are still lacking in support of victims.
According to The Oracle, Title IX is a federal law from 1972 “prohibiting gender discrimination in any federally funded education program, including colleges and universities. The law also requires schools, in addition to the police, to handle reports of sexual assault on campus.”
The law encompasses the issues of sexual violence, harassment, and gender discrimination. USF is one of the first schools in the country to host a conference about this law.
The timing is perfect, with students nationwide entering what is commonly referred to as the “red zone.” The first 90 days of a new school year are when sexual assaults occur most often, leaving students, especially freshmen women, vulnerable, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
By having the conference the second week of school, USF is hoping to get the issue out to students so that they are aware of the dangers they could potentially face. Crystal Coombes, USF’s senior deputy Title IX coordinator, told the Times, “The idea is when we’re proactive in our education, then we often have the ability to prevent.”
Based on a study done by the Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice, President Obama said, “It is estimated that one in every five women on college campuses has been sexually assaulted during their time there.” One in five is far too many. The White House launched the “It’s On Us” campaign to combat rape and sexual assault.
This campaign brought the issue to the attention of citizens nationwide. Universities began making Title IX a mandatory part of their students’ education. USF included an hour-long session on the issue at orientation this year and informed students about the problem and the assistance available to them.
The Title IX conference is a great way for USF to begin a proactive fight in ending the abuse held on campus. Educating the public is always the first step towards change. However, there is still much work to be done.
According to the Times, “despite spending several years trying to be proactive in curbing campus rapes, USF is still one of more than 120 schools under federal investigation for possibly mishandling a sexual assault case.”
Educating the public will help students be more cautious in their decision-making but, if someone is assaulted, the victims need to know that their school will be there to support them and implement justice.
Unfortunately, that support is not yet available. One study by the group End Violence Against Women International, found that only 5 percent of rapes are ever prosecuted.
If universities are taking this issue as seriously as they claim, there should be a major increase in prosecutions nationwide. Educating the student body is a great first step, but prevention is not 100 percent effective, and until justice is a feasible option for victims, universities should not be anticipating applause for their efforts.
Breanne Williams is a junior majoring in mass communications.