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Sexual assault dialogue needed

Letter to the Editor | Friday, November 18, 2005

In response to Sean Hoban’s Nov. 17 letter to the editor “Keeping Perspective,” I think he misunderstood the argument Katie Kelly and others are making. He said “these e-mails should be thought of as a tool for fighting rapists rather than a slander on the victims.” Had I just been sexually assaulted and the next day a reminder (in response to my assault) warned others to take precautions, watch their drinks and not to wander off with strangers, the implication is that I did not take these precautions. Sexual assault occurs whether we watch our drinks or not.

And I’m not saying all men are rapists or that all rapists are men because this isn’t true. Sexual assault affects men, women and children, so how come only women get talked to about rape? How come nobody ever talks to men about why it is not okay to sexually assault another human being? We talk to women because they are more likely to be assaulted but we don’t talk to men who are more likely to be the assaulters.

I believe Kelly’s quote in the Nov. 15 Observer article, “Group voices concern over e-mail wording,” was “I think it is great and important to know about [sexual assault incidents on campus], but it is how they put it out there that is the problem.” Nobody is saying that safety precautions aren’t necessary or helpful, but I think it’s important to examine the information we put out, leave out, who we address and who we don’t address. Kelly also acted in response to anonymous postings in an online forum page, some of which said things about a women’s personal responsibility to not lead men on and to watch what they wear because women can send mixed signals. When we have people who believe that a victim holds some responsibility because of what she was wearing then having an e-mail that states what precautions women need to take to avoid sexual assault enhances that belief.

This is an important dialogue that needs to take place and I’m glad it’s finally being addressed. Sexual assault is never okay. And if you are a victim, it is never your fault.

Lety VerduzcoAssistant Director Community ConnectionsCenter for Women’s InterCultural LeadershipSaint Mary’s CollegeNov. 18