Poyer: Let’s talk sexual assault on campus

The university has reported five sexual assault cases in the fall 2022 semester.

Sarah Poyer

Editor’s Note: This piece is a part of the series “Let’s talk.”

Content warning: This column contains discussion of sexual assault. 

It seems that Ames and Iowa State have become exactly what I feared. They have become rampant with sexual assaults. On-campus alone this year, we have had twelve reported assaults. Twelve of them in fifteen weeks; what is happening? 

If you think about it, we have had 12 reported cases. How many are going unreported? How many victims are not coming forward because they are ashamed? Ashamed because they are underage and had been drinking, they are a male-presenting person, they knew the person or maybe they said “yes,” then changed their mind. Victims should not feel ashamed because, in reality, the assault they were the victim of was not their fault. It’s the fault of the person who committed the assault, and the treatment should be as such.  

Now, I am glad that victims feel okay coming out about their assaults. That is a good sign because we should be supporting victims. They have had a horrible crime happen to them. Support, advocacy and understanding are desperately needed to assist the survivors as they move past what crime has been committed against them. 

One of my best friends is an RA this semester. She has received multiple reports herself this semester. A resident of hers was assaulted and came to my friend for help. As trained, my friend jumped into action filling out the necessary paperwork while also maintaining comfort for the victim. She made sure that the resident felt supported and helped the person out in any way she could, even if it meant missing out on some sleep, homework time or a class of her own. 

I am proud of my best friend for jumping into action to help someone who did not know where to turn. As a student, your RA is often your first point of contact; you see them frequently and are, therefore, quite comfortable with them. An RA is supposed to mentor the residents in their building, someone they can turn to for advice and guidance. As I said, I am so proud of my best friend for being that for the residents in her building. I wish she did not have to guide them through such rough waters because no one deserves to go through what these victims do. 

What is scariest to me about these assaults on campus is we do not know who could be committing them. It could be someone who sits in your physics class and asks the professor insightful questions, someone whose pants you admire on campus, someone who lives across the street from you, someone in your building or even someone in your household. Unfortunately, we do not know who could be committing these assaults, which is honestly quite scary. Yet, we should not live in fear of these people because it gives them more power, which is not what we should aim to do. 

Instead, we must empower the survivors of assaults and ourselves to combat this power going to the ones perpetrating the crime. We can advocate for victims, let them know that we see and hear them. Tell them we will not stand for this to be happening on our campus and in our city. We can support victims and assist them in processing the trauma in whatever healthy way is available. We can also push the school to help us out. 

Can the school be doing more to help victims? Should the school be doing more? To both of those questions, my answer would be yes. We should see more help from the school to help make victims safer on campus. I would like to see an in-person guardian option. Someone or multiple people can walk someone to and from on-campus at night. Saferide is a wonderful option for long distances and should be more widely discussed. But I think an on-foot option for hopping between dorms or even closer together buildings on campus would be perfect. 

I do not have all the answers, but I would like to see some growth in victim support here on campus. Victims deserve support after tragic events happen. Even better yet, I would like to see the number of sexual assaults on campus plummet. We should know by now that anything other than an enthusiastic yes from both parties is a no. Here is a great video to watch to give us a refresher on consent. This video is a wonderful opportunity to refresh one’s knowledge of consent. 

We should be doing better. Sexual assault this prevalent on campus is scary and needs to be stopped. Students should feel safe coming to campus, parties or even sporting events. Let’s keep our campus and city a safe place for everyone.