Every once in awhile in our editorial staff meetings, a topic comes up that feels more important than the rest. This week, the topic of sexual assault was so important to us that we decided to dedicate almost an entire issue to it.
Inside The Panther’s “Someone You Know” special issue on sexual assault on campus, we set out to tackle stories about sexual assault from all angles. Sexual assault is an epidemic that is not limited to one gender, relationship category or reaction.
You’re taught as a journalist to be an unopinionated watchdog and bystander. But there is nothing impersonal about interviewing survivors of sexual assault or dating violence.
At first, I was uncertain that our writers would be able to find sources. People don’t talk to each other about sexual assault, and it seemed unlikely that they would want to discuss it publicly. Come last Monday, with the first announcement of The Panther’s mission, I found out just how wrong my assumption was.
It turns out that once you create a space for people to step forward, the stories will come to you. I think I expected maybe one or two hard-hitting pieces to come through for publication.
What I didn’t expect was for at least one person in every single one of my classes to pull me aside and say, “I’m thinking about writing about my experience of sexual assault for The Panther this week.”
I didn’t expect for the topic to come up every time I went to coffee with a friend that week, for them to ask if they could write about their best friend, their co-worker or their own experience.
I didn’t expect strangers to text me in the middle of the night, wanting to tell me about their ongoing Title IX case.
Did all these people choose to write? No, and that’s not the point. The point is that they could have and that’s worth publishing.
We decided to title this issue “Someone You Know” to address the fact that even though Chapman is not an Ivy League school and we don’t have Division I sports teams or a fraternity row, sexual assault is happening here. Someone you know may have been sexually assaulted. Someone you know may have committed sexual assault. And, three out of four sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone that the individual knew, according to a study by the Department of Justice.
Talking about sexual assault in the paper doesn’t end this week – we intend to follow up on the issues we touched upon here. If you have something to say or respond to, send us a message – we want your voice to be heard.
Sexual assault shouldn’t have to be a part of the college experience.