In Pipe Dream’s 2020 Sex Survey, 33.45 percent of respondents said they didn’t know if they had ever been sexually assaulted or harassed and 4.2 percent said they were unsure if they had ever sexually assaulted or harassed someone else. These results point to the lack of sexual assault and harassment education by Binghamton University, which is not currently set to improve.
In Pipe Dream’s Feb. 10 issue, we covered the recent decision to remove 20:1 from the orientation schedule in the coming academic year. 20:1 is an on-campus organization dedicated to informing the student body about issues around sexual harassment and assault — a critical factor in promoting healthy and safe sexual interactions between BU students. Although the program isn’t perfect, its removal leaves incoming students with a deficit of information about what constitutes sexual assault and harassment. It remains to be seen if the replacement webinar issued by BU will suffice in educating students as effectively as the 20:1 program can.
Some organizations have made efforts to improve sexual assault education at BU. The Student Association (SA) recently took up an initiative to increase access to sexual assault resources both on and off campus. As part of their initiative, students can now find “Know Your Resources” pamphlets scattered across campus, which include a note that reads: “After an assault, you or your friends may not know where to go for help. This is a comprehensive list of on and off campus resources and what they can do for you.” While this is a great step forward in ensuring these facilities are used by those who need it, it fails to define what constitutes sexual assault or harassment. How can a student utilize the appropriate resources if they don’t know if they have been assaulted in the first place?
Most importantly, neither 20:1 nor the SA pamphlets have information that specifically pertains to sexual assault and harassment that occurs online. Sexual assault does not always have to be a physical act. For example, our 2020 Sex Survey found that 8.9 percent of respondents have sent nude photographs without consent because they thought the recipient would enjoy it, while 7.2 percent sent nudes because they felt pressured into doing so. Additionally, 12.2 percent of respondents indicated that their nude photographs have been used in a way they did not consent to and were uncomfortable with, and 13 said their images were used to scam or blackmail them. With the sharing of nudes becoming commonplace for many, it warrants an update to the sex education efforts by both organizations and the University as they seek to inform their students with the most up-to-date and relevant information that can both prevent and assist in handling cases of sexual assault and harassment.
The Editorial Board recognizes the value of providing students with as many measures as possible to both prevent sexual assault and assist those affected by it, but it all starts with a proper education. There are many gray spaces in what constitutes sexual assault — spaces that victims may not be able to navigate without help. The University should work to ensure that sexual assault and harassment are clearly defined for the well-being of all its students.