warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Sexual Assault: The Essential Campus Conversation

Anonymous |
February 11, 2014 | 3:35 p.m. PST

Guest Contributor

Sexual violence is an issue student government cannot ignore. (Neon Tommy)
Sexual violence is an issue student government cannot ignore. (Neon Tommy)
After viewing a recent video post from a candidate running to be the President of USC’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG), I feel obligated to continue the conversation he started.

I do not want to talk about statistics that indicate the strong presence of sexual assault on college campuses, including our own, nor do I want to talk about how university officials genuinely believe that reducing students’ consumption of alcohol as part of new social policies is an adequate response to this issue.

I want to talk about consent—and more specifically—why the details of an incident of sexual assault, such as how each person was dressed, how much alcohol was consumed, or how two people were interacting before the incident occurred, have become more important factors than simply whether or not there was consent.

SEE ALSO: On Rape Myths And Victim Blaming

At USC we pride ourselves on being a family. Now I know this concept is often used as a tactic to convince parents of prospective students that their child will undoubtedly have a job post-graduation, but I also feel confident in saying that the majority of current USC students could give at least one tangible example of how they feel part of the “Trojan Family.” Whether it’s getting together at 8:00am on a Saturday to do community service with students you’ve never met before, or being able to rely on another member of your student organization to take you to the hospital in the middle of the night because you think you have appendicitis; most of us have felt the Trojan Family, one way or another. 

How is it that we’ve gotten to the point where all of the situational factors are allowed to take the blame for sexual assault, instead of placing the blame on the individual who decides to completely disregard the rights of his classmate, her neighbor, his fellow member of the Greek community, her Trojan family member, and most importantly, his fellow human being in order to pursue his own interests? No amount of alcohol, no extremely revealing dress, no level of flirtatiousness is enough to justify a member of the Trojan Family violating another member of that family.

SEE ALSO: A Timeline Of Sexual Assault At USC

It is time for students to begin empowering each other to do the right thing, to directly address a friend or classmate who even alludes to having sexual relations without consent in a positive way, to ensure that every single member of our Trojan Family is safe. We can put Band-Aid after Band-Aid on top of this issue, sweep it under the rug as our administration has attempted to do, but ultimately it comes down to individuals feeling pressured to respect the rights of other people, as opposed to feeling pressured to have sex at all costs.



Like the candidate, Logan Heley, states in the video, we can ensure that Dept. of Public Safety officers are equipped to respond to incidences of sexual assault and we can make sure that there are adequate resources for survivors of sexual assault. Although these things are essential, it is time to start asking ourselves why sexual assault is happening in the first place, and what we can do on an individual level to prevent it. 

I, personally, have never been interested, let alone involved, in USG. To be honest, I’m not sure if I’ve ever voted for USG presidential candidates, and I most certainly could not tell you what exactly USG does. This year I have decided to follow the presidential campaign to a greater extent than I have in the past, probably because I am graduating from USC, because I have spent four years becoming increasingly frustrated with our administration’s blatant lack of attention to students’ needs and concerns and because I want to know that leadership roles in USG are going to be filled by students who are willing to fight for their student body.

SEE ALSO: USC Clery Blunder Another Chance To Address Student Rape

For a candidate who is been called into question for being the only candidate with a running-mate of the same sex, Logan Heley seems to be much more willing to address the root causes of an issue that negatively effects USC students than his opponents, one of whom does not address the issue of sexual assault at all in his platform, and another who rattled off his own campus involvement to an organization of which I am a member, but could think of nothing to say about his running mate, who was not there, beyond the fact that she is a woman. 

Of all of the frilly changes that all of the candidates address in their platforms, such as renovating Leavey Library and providing cheaper, healthier food on campus, I am most concerned about the survival of a student body, of a Trojan Family where individuals, if nothing else, respect one another.

These elections are a chance to choose student leaders who truly want to improve students’ experiences at USC, who are willing to have difficult conversations, to address controversial issues and to work with our administration in order to do so. I hope that is what my fellow students have in mind during this and future elections processes.

See more Neon Tommy coverage of sexual assault issues at USC here.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.