Column: Practicing Awareness
Content warning: This piece addresses topics of rape, sexual assault and related forms of sexual violence.
Take a walk between the MCC and the Science Complex. Along the sidewalks, there are small signs defining consent and signifying what common actions do not constitute it.
Take a walk into the Wellness Center lobby. On the glass wall next to the corkboard, there are signs elaborating on rape, rape culture and consent.
Take a walk around campus as a whole. On various bulletin boards and tables, there are numerous posters encouraging students to take the It’s On Us pledge to prevent sexual assault.
Some people may see the signs and question their purpose. After all, website Your Local Security named Cameron the safest college campus in Oklahoma. Surely, these things don’t happen here. We don’t need to worry about the threat of assault.
This assertion could not be further from the truth.
That is not to say that sexual assaults and rapes are running rampant at Cameron – or in general, for that matter. Faculty, staff and public safety officials have done their best to keep the university and its students safe.
But the fact of the matter is that there is still a sweeping prevalence of assaults on college campuses, even if reports do not reflect as such.
According to the Rape, Incest and Abuse National Network (RAINN), 23 percent of undergraduate women, 5.4 percent of undergraduate men and 21 percent of non-binary students have experienced some form of sexual assault or rape on campus. Among all graduate and undergraduate students, this number is 11.2 percent.
That said, only 20 percent of female students who experienced rape or assault report it (compared to 32 percent of non-students).
Think back to the first piece of this series, examining the nuances of rape culture. Think back to the story of Emily Doe, the victim of the Brock Turner assault case. Think about the flak she and other victims have received when they reported their assaults. Think of the undue shame they risked putting on themselves and their families, even though they were victims of heinous acts.
No matter the location, no matter the context, these unnecessary burdens fall on victims of sexual assault. It’s something that needs to change – something that has needed to change for years. The best places to spur this paradigm shift are college campuses.
After all, many universities have suffered from glaring indifferences to victims of violence.
This piece doesn’t just focus on Baylor University, whose staff have had a track record of ignoring assault victims’ claims. It doesn’t just focus on Duke, who made more efforts to care for their lacrosse players than the woman they allegedly assaulted.
It focuses on places like Cal-Berkeley, who did only the bare minimum to help native Oregonian and Cal student Emily Lorenzen after her sexual assault from members of a university athletic club. After pressure from the Lorenzen family, the administration stopped recognizing the organization as an official entity on campus. But that’s about all they did.
Officials did not discipline the student accused of raping Lorenzen. There was no discipline for the students who concealed the truth. The school’s professional committee declined to consider student conduct charges because of a lack of evidence (despite not inviting Lorenzen to the meeting).
Emily’s father Henry, then president of the Oregon State Board of Higher Education, said Berkeley offered shallow protection to his daughter.
“They wanted to protect the university more than have a process that worked well both for the victim and the accused,” he said in an interview with InvestigateWest.
Unfortunately, Emily Lorenzen is not the only victim of indifferent college responses. Though not as highly publicized, her story is one of few that reached the light of day, even in an age where Title IX theoretically streamlines the process of reporting and responding to sexual assault cases.
But there is some hope. Even though many individuals in the White House may not feel Title IX needs continued support, many schools have provided ample resources to their departments that help enforce the rule.
According to Colorado Title IX lawyer John Clune, many places have happily complied.
“They understand what they’re supposed to do, and they’re doing a good job with it,” he said in a “New York Times” interview. “They’re not going to go backwards at this point no matter who is running the Department of Education.”
But there is still work to do. As long as victims fear reporting their stories, there will still be work to do. Campaigns like It’s On Us are a start, but we need to continue this conversation long beyond April, far beyond seminars and pop-up events.
We need to speak up and be better bystanders. We need to help victims. We need to teach people that rape is bad and mean it instead of giving students a slap on the wrist.
We need to stop this toxic and passive indifference.
If you or someone you know is or has been the victim of rape or sexual assault, call (800) 656-4673 or visit All calls are free and confidential.