Did this headline make you uncomfortable? “Sexual assault is not a big problem around here,” you say?
A recent survey of University of Arkansas students found 31% had been sexually assaulted since arriving on campus, but almost none of these assaults were reported to campus security or city law enforcement.
Sadly, we know that sexual assault is a serious problem on college campuses all around the country. This is wrong, and it must stop. Fayetteville is a city of firsts, and we have the opportunity to lead the way in ending sexual harassment and assault on college campuses and throughout our community.
When I served on the Safety Subcommittee of the Town and Gown Committee, we reviewed numbers reported to Fayetteville and University Police showing there were very few to no reported sexual assaults. I was concerned that these numbers weren't telling the whole story. During my time as a Planned Parenthood Advisory Board member I learned that many victims are reluctant to report sexual harassment and assault for a variety of valid reasons. Now, we have the data to show that much more needs to be done to make our hometown safe.
As the #MeToo movement continues to empower assault survivors to speak out, I hope that more will be willing to seek justice with law enforcement. However, it is not just the responsibility of victims to speak out. As a community, we also have a responsibility. We must do all we can to stop assaults from happening in the first place, while making it easier for victims to report these crimes when they do happen.
I want Fayetteville to be one of the safest cities in the country. I want parents to feel confident that their children will be safe when they come here to receive an education. I want anyone who has suffered sexual assault, abuse or harassment to know that they are supported. I want predators to know that they will not be tolerated here.
That's why I'm calling on the University, the City and community organizations to join me in building a coalition that will help prevent sex crimes and support survivors: Sexual Assault in Fayetteville Ends (SAFE).
The Arkansas legislature also has a duty to help end sexual harassment and violence. If I am elected to the House District 86 seat being vacated by Greg Leding, I will build on his efforts to address sexual assault on campus.