Be the solution, not the problem

By Branda Mitchell, @BrandaM_DE

Seventy percent of reported sexual assault crimes never made it to a courtroom in southern Illinois between 2005 and 2013, according to a recent investigation by the Belleville-News Democrat. 

Clearly, we need to be doing something different.

April is sexual assault awareness month, so there is no time like the present to talk about the issue. Although it may be easier to focus on the positive aspects of sex and relationships, it is vital to discuss the serious problems as well.


I have spent a week trying to decide how I would cover sexual assault awareness month, but every idea I had made me too worried about the subject. I can talk about almost anything, but openly discussing sexual assault even concerns me and that is not okay. We have to be able to talk about this to fix it.

If we alter the way we think about a problem, we begin to change the way we treat it; hopefully this approach can stop assaults.

We can begin this change with prevention and education. The bottom line is we need to teach people to not sexually assault rather than how to not get assaulted. No one is ever asking to be sexually assaulted, harassed or receive unwanted attention.

As a culture, we are behind in this movement, especially when it comes to the representation of sex in the media. Misogynistic language, glamorization of sexual violence and objectification of women are major contributions to this problem.

We must shift our mentality to eradicate the stigmas of human sexuality. 

Education is essential to this mission and the only way to create a lasting impact. SIU has made progress by implementing sexual education programs like Step Up and the Haven program. 

We need to continue the conversation beyond a weeklong class. Be the person who encourages a constructive conversation among your peers.


As college students, this is more relevant than ever.

College women are four times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than any other demographic, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

Strides to prevent sexual assault and to help those who have been affected can be made by actively being aware of how you can most effectively work through a situation.

If someone who has been assaulted comes to you, give them support by listening and respecting their decisions.

If you are a bystander in a situation in which you think someone is at risk of being assaulted or harassed, you can help prevent potential abuse by asking if they need help. 

The Women’s Center and The Student Health Center are resources to help victims of assault. There are also other sources of help available, such as national anonymous hotlines and support groups.

After we begin to change the way we teach, we will see a change in the way our culture views sexuality. However, we do not have to wait to start making a difference.

Since I have started this column, I have received more comments about my personal life and my character than I ever have, as if being open to discussion is inviting character judgment.

Everyday interactions are important to the cause too.

For example, telling a girl that it is okay to stare at her chest because she’s wearing a low cut shirt may not seem like a big deal in the moment. However, those interactions can perpetuate the idea that it is okay to treat others a certain way because of appearance or attitude. Think critically about your own behavior and do what you can to help eliminate sexual assault and harassment.