The staff editorial is the majority opinion of The Murray State News Editorial Board.
It should be common sense that Public Safety and Emergency Management is responsible for going after assailants of sexual assault. However, in its campus- wide email to the student body, it highlighted what victims can do to avoid becoming “easy targets.”
Public Safety issued two email alerts on Jan. 29 and Feb. 6 to inform students that they are in the process of investigating separate incidents. In both emails, the tips for avoiding victimization were the same. While the information seems good-natured, it lists multiple points that contradict each other.
In one bullet, Public Safety suggests that you should “Communicate limits as clearly as possible. If someone starts to offend you, tell him or her early and firmly. Being polite is OK as long as you are firm and assertive,” but another tip said “Do not smile; do not act polite or friendly.” The contradicting points are confusing. Should students politely reject their assailant or avoid the pleasantries by standing their ground?
If a student is in the midst of an assault, Public Safety said that they should “Stay calm, consider (the) options and how safe it would be to resist.” According to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, rapists justify their actions by saying the victim was relaxed and didn’t resist their advances.
Encouraging victims to stay calm and weigh their options makes the assault seem consensual when it isn’t. Public Safety negates this by saying that victims should say “No,” and “Stop it. This is rape.” How can victims do both?
Out of fear and embarrassment, some victims will delay reporting the crime or will not file a report at all. Public Safety advises students to “Call the police. A crime has been committed.” They then redact this tip by saying students can avoid police intervention by going to an emergency department for medical care. Reporting a crime against yourself is not a legal obligation, but police officers should not waver on this issue.
As our protectors, they should be responsible for telling victims that reporting is important and necessary for the punishment of attackers. Though hospital services are also important, Public Safety should not give us tips on how to avoid their help.
A police officer’s job is to report incidents, arrest offenders and spearhead the process of criminal justice and retribution. Instead, Public Safety gives victims confusing pointers that could lead to more harm than good.
Rape and sexual assault can be emotionally traumatizing events. Instead of haphazardly educating victims, Public Safety should refer students to more reliable sources of help. The email stated that Murray State offers many resources regarding medical care and counseling, but failed to provide locations, phone numbers or anything else for victims who are willing to take that step. The University has options like the Women’s Center, the Counseling and Testing Center and the Psychological Center that provide help.
In addition to reaching out to victims, we should make the effort to educate offenders. We should teach people the concept of consent and that “No” really means “No.” Unfortunately, Public Safety says the victims need to prevent their own assault and avoid becoming targets. We unanimously recognize that sexual assault is a crime that shouldn’t go unpunished, but Public Safety’s approach to this sensitive issue is misguided. Maybe it’s time for a revision.