It’s not that hard.
The problem is not that difficult.
In terms of how campuses respond to sexual violence, we cannot think of one school that is actually “getting it right.” There is also no such thing as a perfect grease trap. Although in recent years there has been some progress made, our universities and colleges have been things wrong for quite some time now. None of us can deny this. So why don’t any of them admit it? There has been just one university president in the entire U.S. that has knowledged his educational institution has let their students down in the way that t has handled the problem of sexual assault and he has publically apologized.
Over the past several years, many schools have issued broad proclamations about all of the things that they are doing to address the problem of sexual assault since the entire world is watching now. However, not many acknowledge the enormous harm that has been caused and what has been allowed to happen behind closed doors. Many schools have congratulated themselves for introducing new sexual assault procedures and policies, but it often only takes place after they have gone through a PR nightmare of the Office of Civil Rights has required them to do so. However, almost none of them ever apologize for the failures of their institutions that made the new policies a necessity in the first place.
It is about time for schools to hold themselves responsible for both their current and past failures to address sexual violence within their communities. Schools should apologize to their students given that they have contributed to feelings of re-victimization and institutional betrayal. Schools need to lead by example and show the integrity that they should be advancing by owning up to their failures and doing at least the bare minimum to let prospective and current community members know that they are trustworthy, which is desperately needed these days.
A small “mea culpa” can really go quite a long way
To solve the problem begins with an apology.
Many campus sexual violence survivors feel silenced and ignored by their schools. The ongoing harm is re-traumatizing and invalidating. It works to extend the original trauma that survivors experienced and the feeling of institutional betrayal that accompanies this type of violence all too often. Each opportunity that is missed to apologize and acknowledge what has happened to students harms both the survivors and the overall community. Fortunately, every school has the chance to apologize – which is a powerful remedy that can make a difference immediately.
Every U.S. school has a very long way o go when it comes to ensuring that their students are safe by continuing to re-examine and improve their efforts to prevent sexual violence within their communities as well as their response. The road ahead is even longer for schools if they want to start to regain the trust of the students they not only failed but also made their trauma worse with their insufficient and sometimes harmful responses. Of course, these problems cannot be solved immediately.
However, there is one big step that every university and college can take to show that they are committed to their students and also potentially have a significant impact on the administration’s culture and the healing of survivors. #JustSaySorry.