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Monday, October 25, 2021

There’s another reason to take the sexual assault survey

If you’re a student at UF, you received an email from UF President Kent Fuchs encouraging students to fill out a campus climate survey on sexual assault and misconduct. It’s a survey that attempts to better understand sexual assault and sexual misconduct on college campuses. There are 33 universities conducting the survey, which is being conducted by the Association of American Universities, including UF.

The Alligator previously reported it did not know how many participants the survey has or will have, but a similar survey from 2015 had a 17 percent participation rate. The survey is fairly intensive, which is appropriate considering the topic of sexual assault can be hard to define and understand. Two out of the four members of the editorial board decided to take the survey (both of us being women). As we were going through it, we began to understand the underlying importance of it. The purpose of the survey is to begin to try to remedy the problem of sexual assault on college campuses, but that goal is far off in the future. For now, the survey can serve a different purpose: It can be a way for you to look back on past experiences and understand how and why they may have affected you.

We chose to take the survey, and while going through the questions, we found ourselves clicking a box frequently that said something along the lines of “I didn’t find it important enough to report,” after being prompted to say how we handled certain situations. They usually involved what we would consider events that aren’t particularly significant. For example, they were events that often included a lewd comment or an unprompted touch, but ultimately, we didn’t feel they needed to be reported to anyone. The survey made us think back to situations that we felt uncomfortable in, and it made us see harassment and assault a little differently than we had before. When the survey asked about harassment, we realized that they were situations that weren’t uncommon in our lives, and most likely in other women’s lives, especially on a college campus.

Nearly every day, we hear stories from roommates or friends about how they experienced something that made them feel unsafe, yet they chose not to report it. It’s up to a person’s discretion whether or not they want to report their experience. Unfortunately, it’s common that catcalls from a random person on the street, or a touch that lingers too long in the club, aren’t reported.

What’s important about this survey is that it allows you to reflect on your experiences at UF and understand what you’ve been comfortable or uncomfortable with. It made us reflect on the culture of sexual assault and harassment on campus, and many of the questions asked were about situations we hadn’t previously considered reporting because they were situations where we weren’t physically or mentally harmed and didn’t involve someone we personally knew, but we still felt were inappropriate comments or actions. However, there are various forms of sexual assault, and they can happen anywhere and with anyone, even someone you trust.

Answering the survey questions, we did not necessarily feel any worse about our experiences, but frankly, it made us upset to think we live in a world where unwarranted comments, questions and touching are a part of most women’s everyday life. This isn’t to say only women experience sexual assault or harassment. Others do as well, which is just another reason to take the survey. Everyone should understand the effect sexual assault or harassment has on his or her life. For us, it made us realize there have been situations where we may have been passive when it came to certain forms of harassment directed at us, and that’s not OK. We encourage everyone to take the survey. Take it to understand how you’re feeling in regards to your own mental health. It could give you a new understanding of your experiences.

The Alligator editorial board includes the opinions editor Michaela Mulligan, editor-in-chief Paige Fry and managing editors Christina Morales and Amanda Rosa.

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