Dr. Simona Sharoni, a professor of Women and Gender Studies at the State University of New York, came to West Chester University to speak about gender-based violence on Monday, April 4.
Dr. Sharoni is the co-founder of Faculty Against Rape (FAR), which is a national organization promoting a rise in the faculty’s cooperation in the struggle to control sexual assault on college campuses.
She has been a key advocate for the feminist perspective to peace-building and solutions of conflicts.
Dr. Sharoni spoke about the issue of sexual violence on college campuses, saying that “20 percent of college students are likely to experience sexual assault during their years on campus.”
College sexual assaults have become so bad that it is now considered to be expected as part of the college experience.
One of the biggest problems, Dr. Sharoni said, is the lack of accountability, especially for college athletes and students in Greek life.
“We’ve seen way too many survivors drop out of school,” she said.
Dr. Sharoni added that most survivors of campus sexual violence do not finish their college degrees.
Many colleges do not have proper resources for survivors, and even if the perpetrator gets arrested or kicked off campus, the survivor will still have problems.
“We need to ensure that all students have access to the same rights and support,” she said.
Dr. Sharoni said that it is important to note that while most sexual violence is perpetrated by men, there are still men who are survivors of sexual assault, too.
She also noted that students who are in the LGBTQIA community, especially transgender students, are more vulnerable to sexual violence.
Dr. Sharoni spoke about how she tells her students that she will be there for them, saying, “If there are issues in a student’s life that makes it so they can’t perform to the best of their abilities, then it is my job as a faculty to help.”
According to a certain law, a professor has to report if a student admits to them that they are a victim of sexual violence.
Dr. Sharoni said that she would not comply with that rule. If a student seeks out a professor, then they are looking for advice, and Dr. Sharoni will not go against a student’s trust.
Dr. Sharoni supports the idea that each campus should have mandated reporters designated so that professors can get proper training and that a student can confide in them about sexual assaults without them having to report the student.
According to Title IX, it is the responsibility of the school to take immediate action to end sexual violence because sexual violence interferes with a student’s right to obtain education free from discrimination.
“If things happen that prevent a student from getting a degree and the school doesn’t help, that’s a violation of Title IX,” Dr. Sharoni said. “We need to be the watchdog so that Title IX is implemented.”
According to Dr. Sharoni, a student is more likely to be expelled for plagiarism than rape on a college campus. She said that colleges need to do a better job at prevention and intervention, supporting survivors and holding the perpetrators accountable. She claimed that false reporting of sexual violence only happens about two to eight percent of the time, and that there needs to be more education about consent, which is a verbal, ongoing and sober.
According to the Safe Campus Act, a college does not have to investigate or charge anyone involved in a sexual assault unless the student reports it to the state police.
“I have no trust that college administrators will address this problem the way it should be addressed,“ she said. “I want to see college presidents making a very simple talk with an apology to survivors, recognize that mistakes were done in the past, support for survivors, and accountability.”
Dana Perkiss is a fourth-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. Contact them at DP785965@wcupa.edu