Recently, the #MeToo movement has captivated the world, with women from diverse backgrounds and professions coming forward with stories of harassment and assault. This movement has shown the world that far too many women have been forced to endure unwanted sexual advances, not only professionally, but in their everyday lives. This trend is especially true at colleges 23 percent of women and 11 percent of all students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force. , the First Lady of New Jersey, Tammy Murphy, an alumni of the University and a member of the Board of Visitors, joined the movement when she shared her experience of being sexually assaulted during her time as a student. College women’s increased risk of sexual assault and Murphy’s story confirm what many University students and faculty members already know — that sexual assault is all around us and students must contribute to the progress that has yet to be made.
Fortunately, the University has recently made a amount of progress in improving its responses to sexual assault. According to a 2016-17 climate survey at the University, 11.8 percent of female undergraduate students and 2.3 percent of male undergraduate students reported incidence of sexual assault through force or threat of force. That is down from 2015, where 13.4 percent of females and 3.2 percent of males reported incidents of sexual assault. The survey also showed that 44.8 percent of students believed officials will take action against the perpetrators of sexual assault, which is a huge increase from the 28.2 percent of students who believed officials would take action in 2015. These trends are promising, but these numbers also serve as evidence of the work that still needs to be done. Though it is up from a startlingly low percentage, still less than half of students at the University believe officials will take action against sexual assault. That is unacceptable, and it must change if we are to continue moving forward on this issue.
Though there has rightfully been a lot of focus placed on students and the injustices student victims often face, it is also important to note that many females attempting to climb the ranks of academia have faced sexual assault and harassment. The Wall Street Journal reported a story that describes the pervasive nature of sexual assault in academia and how the field is finally having its #MeToo moment. Women are dramatically in the upper echelons of academia, in no small part due to workplace discrimination. Clearly, it is not just students who must overcome sexual misconduct in our community. We all bear the responsibility of changing this toxic culture.
It is important for students and faculty to continue to speak up about sexual assault and harassment in our community. Progress has been made, but it is not nearly enough — we must keep moving forward. The #MeToo movement has shown that there is momentum for us to finally address the threats that women face in every segment of their lives. This momentum can only continue if citizens are active in fighting against the injustices that are all around us. Students can become active in this fight by supporting like the Sexual Violence Prevention Coalition, which puts on events like Take Back the Night and serves as an umbrella organization for groups like One in Four and One Less. There is ample opportunity on Grounds for students to continue the momentum of the #MeToo movement, but progress depends on how we choose to act.