In the wake of the seemingly endless sexual harassment accusations that ban with the infamous Harvey Weinstein case, many of Hollywood’s stars — both men and women — have dealt admirably with the hidden corruption within the entertainment industry. The black dresses and suits that graced the red carpet were commendable nods to the fight to end sexual harassment in the workplace. Of course, this movement does not solely revolve around Hollywood: the recent “#MeToo” movement deftly used the platform of social media to encourage solidarity among an immense network of sexual harassment survivors.
Yet, in such a chaotic political environment, creating change may not be as simple as wearing a certain color or sharing a social media post; in this case, enough is never really enough. While the aforementioned trends have undoubtedly been helpful to the cause, institutional change across all industries — among university administration in particular — is imperative to finding a collective voice for unheard victims of sexual assault.
On all college campuses, the cloud of sexual misconduct still looms large. In addition to the stresses surrounding moving away from home, balancing course loads and preparing for the workforce, far too many students — specifically females — are faced with the terrifying prospect of sexual harassment. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, nearly 23 percent of females will experience sexual assault at some point in their college careers.
Put simply, the general response to this troubling phenomena from university administration has been weak. Survivors across the country brave enough to come forward rarely see their perpetrators expelled — or punished at all for that matter.
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of fighting sexual harassment is improving systems of reporting these cases as soon as they occur; in this arena, USC has been better than most at aiding victims of sexual assault. Here at USC, the administration has done well in clarifying campus sexual assault policies, including additional training for Department of Public Safety officers and Resident Assistants, creating a Sexual Assault Task force and partnering with Callisto, an online platform that allows users to immediately and securely report a case of sexual assault. USC has also established the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention and Services (RSVP) program, which offers counseling for victims of sexual abuse and educational programs on understanding the facets of sexual violence.
But while education is a core component of prevention, USC has fallen short in terms of addressing the toxic, gendered culture that promotes sexual assault.
In terms of education, USC requires students to complete an online, two-part program called “Think About It,” that exemplifies what a healthy relationship means. The full program is required only of new students and takes all of two hours to complete. But this platform is problematic: the format of the “training” does not necessarily engage readers or encourage them to truly digest the information provided — rather, it acts as an annoyance that students gloss over for the sake of completion. Given the comprehensive response in terms of resources for victims — which are incredibly necessary, and their importance should not be minimized — USC’s response in terms of addressing campus social climate has been inadequate.
Opening up the issue to national discourse, it is difficult to navigate the overarching issue when the very person running the country is an alleged perpetrator of sexual assault. The Access Hollywood tape featuring President Donald Trump — as well as the accusations against leading lawmakers — is a prime example of the tendency of powerful figures to abuse their influence when it goes unchecked. This is not OK in Hollywood, and it certainly is not OK among government officials.
Sexual harassment is a complicated and nuanced issue, and, especially for victims of sexual assault, sometimes it can be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. There is, however, one new development to be hopeful about: Survivors are starting to be heard — by journalists, by Hollywood, by fellow survivors. Sure, institutional change — particularly among universities — is desperately needed. But for perpetrators of sexual abuse, time’s up. It’s been far too long.