OPINION: USC must provide better sexual violence prevention services

Now What, an organization created by five USC alumnae, started an online petition in early May demanding that the University provide better sexual violence protection services. The petition specifically requests that the University hire a sexual assault nurse examiner and educate the student body on the available resources on campus.

USC should not only respond to this petition and meet Now What’s demands, but also proactively provide further resources, such as rape kits, and create a rape treatment center on campus.

The organization was originally a project created in “Designing Media and Communication Projects for Social Change,” a course offered at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Through their course research, Now What’s founders discovered that current sexual violence prevention resources are both inadequate and largely unknown to the student body. This inspired them to start the petition, which has since amassed over 1,500 signatures.

USC has seen multiple sexual harassment and assault allegations against a number of University professors, doctors and administrators, including former Keck School of Medicine dean Rohit Varma, former campus gynecologist George Tyndall and former social work assistant professor Erick Guerrero.

While the University has taken some steps in the right direction since these allegations surfaced, it has not done nearly enough to adequately protect survivors of sexual violence or display its commitment to preventing sexual violence.

The University still does not provide rape kits, a forensic exam that preserves possible DNA evidence and is an important form of medical care for survivors. USC also needs to hire certified medical professionals with expertise in treating sexual assault survivors. Although the Engemann Student Health Center now offers chaperones for all medical examinations and the University has created an online reporting service for sexual assault victims, both initiatives merely react to allegations against Tyndall and don’t address the full scope of sexual violence at USC.

An online survey conducted by Now What revealed that 86% of current students believe that resources are inefficient and 43% are unaware of campus resources. Students need to be educated about the resources available to them on campus, and it is up to Engemann to spread that information. This could be done through an online platform, or by requiring students to take an online course.

“Think About It,” an online program that all USC students are required to complete, encourages students to reflect critically on topics related to consent, dating violence and bystander information. However, the course is currently unengaging and ineffective at imparting lasting lessons to students. Furthermore, the course is a generic one used at multiple universities. USC needs to create a separate, concise platform dedicated solely to educating the student body about campus resources and protocols for survivors of sexual violence.

USC must also implement a rape treatment center on campus. Sexual violence is experienced at a higher rate on college campuses, yet the closest rape treatment center to the University Park Campus, the UCLA Rape Treatment Center, is 13 miles away in Santa Monica. This is a major inconvenience that directly inhibits students’ access to care.

Rape treatment centers aren’t uncommon on or near college campuses. Peer institutions across the country such as Boston University and the University of Illinois have rape treatment centers on campus.

Not only would a rape treatment center help survivors, but it would also help solve a major public safety issue.

Rape kits are necessary to hold sexual violence offenders accountable for their actions so they don’t repeat their crimes and are discouraged from committing them in the first place. This is a unique safety concern for college campuses, given that 66% of perpetrators in college are repeat offenders, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Until the University responds proactively to student complaints by educating the student body about campus resources and providing rape kits and sexual assault nurses, sexual assault survivors at USC won’t get the justice they deserve.

Now is the time for USC to stand in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault rather than work against them.