EDITORIAL: Granting possibilities for spreading awareness

By The Beacon | April 13, 2011 9:00pm

(The Beacon)

By The Beacon Editorial Staff

Sexual assault awareness is a serious matter that should never fade from our attention. Every weekend, UP students going out on the town or to parties with their friends may encounter situations with potential for sexual assault.

This is no reason to be paranoid, but there is a good reason to be prepared. UP needs to create a culture of awareness where students feel equipped to help themselves and their friends out of potentially dangerous situations.

That's why Sociology Professor Martin Monto and Health Center Counselor Kristina Houck should be congratulated for pursuing a campus grant from the United States Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women. The grant would fund the education of UP students about sexual assault.

Specifically, the grant concentrates on helping students understand the psychological phenomenon of the bystander effect. This phenomenon often results in friends being reluctant to intervene in potentially dangerous sexual situations because they don't want to invade a friend's privacy.

This grant would create a program to empower students to help their peers avoid sexual assault where it often occurs: in unsupervised off-campus settings, such as parties.

Students have been educated about sexual assault through presentations during sexual aware- ness week and freshman orientation. This grant takes awareness a step further by concentrating on specific response strategies for students.

The grant is especially relevant in light of the 18-page letter from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights recently sent to federally funded institutions. The letter clarified what should be included in sexual assault policies.

UP has a thorough sexual assault policy that adheres to federal standards, but there is always more students and administrators can do to help curb sexual assault, which is still so pervasive on college campuses across the U.S.

It is encouraging that Monto and Houck are using their professional research interests to directly help the University strengthen its sexual assault education.

College students should be armed with strategies to help their friends out of potential sexual assault situations.

We hope Monto and Houck's efforts enable UP to receive the grant and we applaud them for their efforts to boost student and administrative awareness of sexual assault.