An Open Letter To Miami University After The Miami Student Health Survey: What’s Next?

Earlier this semester, nearly 4,000 students at Miami University responded to the Miami Student Health Survey (MSHS). The survey “is designed to provide insights into common challenges to student success so that the university can enhance services and support.”

While the survey covered a number of different areas regarding student life, one section of the survey, designed to gage the presence of sexual assault on campus, revealed surprising results.

For reference, the preliminary results to the “Sexual Misconduct” section of the Miami Student Health Survey can be found below.

  • Since entering Miami, ~ 33% of women and ~ 15% of men report being a victim/survivor of some form of sexual misconduct on or away from campus (ranging from unwanted sexual contact to rape)
  • Victim/survivors report to campus authorities only 5% of the time, with the most common reason being that they “did not think that the incident was serious enough”
  • About 90% of respondents report being at least a “little” knowledgeable about where to make a report of sexual misconduct, and 91+% report knowing where to get help if needed
  • Students (83%) indicate they have received training on the prevention of sexual misconduct, and about 90% believe that Miami is at least “somewhat likely” to take reports seriously

According to these recent statistics, one out of every three students who bravely participated in this survey have survived sexual misconduct, and of those survivors, one out of every 20 students chose to report the misconduct.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the prevalence sexual assault has come to our attention.

In recent years, we have seen numerous criminal rape cases and the ‘Me Too’ movement shift our perception of sexual assault. Within 24 hours after actress Alyssa Milano tweeted, “If all the people who have been sexually harassed/assaulted wrote “me too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem,” the phrase “me too” had been tweeted 1.7 MILLION TIMES, and  12 MILLION Facebook users responded with their own posts and comments of personal stories of sexual harassment and assault.

While it is absolutely AMAZING to see the outpour of support from survivor to survivor and to see how so many people have emotionally opened themselves to make others aware of their personal struggles, what now?

Will one university’s climate survey CHANGE what we know to be rape culture? In the same breath, Will the “Me too” movement remain an overnight viral campaign, here today and gone tomorrow? Will this lead more men and women to report sexual assault to the authorities as much as they have reported it to their friends? Will more judges hold rapists accountable for their actions with appropriate court procedures and sentencing? Will the members of our community learn that cat-calling is offensive and that consent is a REQUIREMENT for intercourse?

The bigger issue is that these incidents, from unwanted sexual contact to rape, occur at alarmingly high rates and rarely result in consequences for the accused assailant/rapist. Survivors of sexual assault were both shocked and disappointed with the results of the criminal case, People of the State of California v. Brock Allen Turner, when Brock Turner only served 3 months in jail for sexual assault when the crime he committed had the potential of a 14 year sentence. With the unfortunate reality of many similar cases that fail to bring justice to victims, THERE IS MORE WE MUST DO beyond filling out climate surveys or sharing our stories on social media.

Now that the conversation has started and the survivors have found their voices, how will the injustice end? What action will Miami University take in response to the results of this survey? Can we truly change our society, our community, and view sexual assault and harassment for what it is: WRONG?

xx,

A

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