As I am writing this, we are on the precipice of the frenzy that comes with the production of our Spring 2017 supplement, “Chasing Zero.” It’s hard to believe that this night will essentially cap my efforts as editor-in-chief of the Daily Trojan.
It’s an especially sentimental accomplishment because this supplement topic is the main reason why I ran for editor-in-chief last fall. I was most excited about the opportunity to shape a reporting package that seeks to reignite the dialogue around sexual assault at USC.
Every day at the Daily Trojan, our staff works hard to report the day-to-day news on campus. Sometimes this includes sexual assaults — but we’ve always been hindered by the limited information given, he said, she said back-and-forths and the ultimate lack of reporting.
Though campus sexual assault may cycle through headlines, it does not need a news peg in order to find relevance. As long as 29.7 percent of undergraduate women at USC still experience some form of rape or sexual violence — as a survey by the Association of American Universities found in 2015 — sexual assault will always be a pressing, pertinent and relevant issue.
Four years after the federal government launched an investigation of USC for mishandling cases of sexual assault, the University remains under scrutiny by the Office of Civil Rights.
Having heard heartbreaking testimonies from close friends who are survivors of sexual assault, I can’t imagine an issue that is more deeply personal. The wounds from their trauma will always be fresh. They will carry these burdens for the rest of their lives.
We heard these stories in “Justice is having every story heard — unfiltered,” in which we explore how survivors can achieve justice. We looked into the Title IX reporting process in “Four years later, campus investigation stalls,” which reconciles the strides made by the University on this issue and student voices requesting what still needs to be done. In an interview with the Daily Trojan, Vice President for Student Affairs Ainsley Carry revealed that the administration’s goal is not to decrease rates of sexual assault by a target number, but to “chase zero.” And we feature a letter to the editor, which defends the greek system’s role in the sexual assault conversation.
We also explored the way that gender-based violence operates in our modern context. In “How social media shapes the sexual assault narrative” we examined the impact of social media in giving survivors control of their own narratives — or hurting them in the process. “Going the Distance” spotlights a group of students hoping to bring rape kits to campus, given the distance University’s recommended rape treatment.
In this supplement, we Daily Trojan editors set out to accomplish an extraordinary task. We put the sexual assault prevention and adjudication process under a microscope; we sought to return the dialogue around sexual assault to relevance, and shine a light on its many nuances.
In this task, we encountered challenges unlike those I’ve seen in any other supplement. We’ve filtered our sources to ensure accuracy. We’ve used targeted, precise language to protect our interview subjects who are sexual assault survivors. We’ve taken great care to keep stories balanced. When they have requested it, we’ve kept the identities of survivors anonymous in order to keep them safe.
And through it all, we’ve hoped to create a platform for the voices of survivors. We’ve hoped to share their stories, as well as analyze the complex interplays between universities, Title IX and athletic departments. We’ve hoped to equip student activists with more information about what the University needs to do to effectively address sexual assault.
I went into this project thinking that I could easily create change. But the issue is so complicated, and there is a great deal of editorial responsibility that lies within a supplement about a campus topic that is so delicate, yet so important.
During a time when the current Title IX protections become vulnerable under the current presidential administration, it is important that the University continues to uphold and expand upon its efforts to combat sexual assault. What we have found in this supplement is that sexual assault prevention is a partnership between students and administrators. We hope that by reading this supplement, you will be inspired to continue the fight.