Sexual assault at USC has increased since 2015. But even worse, undergraduate students’ awareness of their resources on campus has decreased in contrast to the national trend, as shown in the 2019 Association of American Universities Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct.
On the surface, the University claims to be addressing the issue to their best efforts. Yet, one integral aspect that the University is not only dismissing but actively working against is the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention center. RSVP offers the best hope for rhetoric to turn into action. The office provides the most vital resources for various stages of relationship and sexual violence with preventative trainings, confidential counseling services and advocacy for survivors if and when they want to report. Even further, RSVP provides services for other power and gender-based harms besides sexual assault, such as domestic violence and stalking.
While I want to advocate for rape kits on campus, the availability of a sexual assault nurse examiner and other necessary additions as resources for USC students, these upcoming strides cannot occur when the University creates overlapping initiatives that fail to direct students to their current, primary resources.
The University directly undermines RSVP’s visibility. The new website for USC Student Health omits RSVP’s name, titling the section “Sexual Assault & Survivor Support.” By excluding the proper name of the resources, the RSVP center is only known through the USC Student Health website, perpetuating the lessening of accessibility and knowledge of RSVP.
Even more troubling, the center no longer has its own phone number for urgent matters, thanks to a new directive to bury it under the USC Student Health website’s main-line. So, if a student requires emergency assistance, the best you can expect is a long series of extensions and transfers before actually reaching RSVP. This new phone policy further limits RSVP’s accessibility and visibility to students. It discourages students from seeking help when the University makes it so painstakingly difficult and sends the message that our issues are not prioritized.
Plus, conflicting names like “Sexual Assault & Survivor Support” on the Student Health Center website cause confusion and undercuts the level of immediacy that students require after a traumatizing experience. These detrimental initiatives have a damning effect on our student body as a whole by promoting confusion in a time when assurance is necessary.
Without encouraging more awareness of students’ resources, USC is stifling RSVP’s visibility, accessibility and ultimately its effectiveness as the main resource to combat sexual assault and misconduct at USC.
RSVP has tremendous value to offer our student body. But if the University does not take its commitment seriously, then how can it truly protect survivors of sexual assault? The student body deserves more. We deserve more than USC saving face. We deserve better access and visibility to RSVP. We deserve effective initiatives that will give sexual assault survivors the support they need. We deserve to make this issue unequivocally clear to all students.
Taylor Moises, ’21