Editorial: ‘Rock Against Rape’ highlights unfortunate campus reality

On Sept. 2, two Maine-based rock bands joined together to put on a show for the University of Maine. Their part folk, part Americana blends filled the Somerset parking lot, where a bake sale and donation jar also made appearances. This concert offered more than a good time — it gave attendees a chance to support the eradication of one of the most prevalent hardships on college campuses nationwide: sexual assault.

The Mallett Brothers and The Ghost of Paul Revere were brought to campus by Sigma Phi Epsilon for their annual Rock Against Rape concert. Donations were gathered to support the Spruce Run-Womancare Alliance: a nonprofit dedicated to supporting victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence, as well as striving toward the end of these issues.

This is not an unheard of issue. Sexual assault awareness has been making leaps and bounds in recent years. Posters, discussions and support groups are easily found on campus. Resources are abundant online. Yet this violence continues to darken our campuses. The statistics have been repeated again and again: 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men will experience some form of sexual assault during their college years, and around 90 percent of victims do not report the assault, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC). These figures are ever-changing as we further understand sexual violence and dig deeper into its reaches.

Sexual assault has been making headlines recently in far too many college-based cases, including the widely known Brock Turner case that made waves on the UMaine campus as well. On Friday, Sept. 2, the same day as the Rock Against Rape concert, students protested Turner’s premature release in front of Fogler Library. His already lenient six month sentence had been halved.

The prevalence of sexual assault is made worse by slack consequences for perpetrators across the country. Jail time, if served in the first place, rarely lasts to its recommended minimum, and offenders are let off on “good behavior” to minimize damages to their “promising future.” Little attention is given to the victims themselves, and we quietly support this type of violence by failing to hold perpetrators accountable for their appalling actions.

The NSVRC also cites that more than 50 percent of assaults on camps occur from August to November. This is nearly the entirety of our fall semester. This is no way to start off the school year. Students should not have to worry about protecting themselves when they are easing into the semester. Nobody anywhere, any time should need to worry about potential assault.

Sexual assault is a multi-faceted problem with many contributing factors, and it has carried on far too long at such high magnitudes. Ideally, this violence would come to a complete stop — no victims, no occurrences, no hazy incidents that might or might not be violation. We would not read about popular campuses with yet another case going to trial. We would not need to hold these protests or raise constant awareness.

It is not enough anymore to keep the conversation going. Dialogue is crucial for giving survivors an outlet to tell their stories and raise awareness, but that alone will not push our society to the finish line. Action follows conversation. Whether that action involves stepping in when a dangerous situation arises, educating children before this can become a problem in their generations or honestly punishing those who perpetuate these crimes, we need to do something.

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