From the Affirmative Consent Project: Minutes from Alaska Judiciary Committee Hearing Here
2.14.16 | Brie Van Dam
News-Miner Community Perspective:
In light of all the available and alarming statistics on sexual assault in our state, it is frustrating to read articles such as the account of a Legislature committee meeting in Juneau as covered in Matt Buxton’s article, “Legislators discuss UAF’s policies on harassment, sexual assault.” As reported, legislators spent the majority of their time discussing how to protect men who are falsely accused, despite the fact that research shows only 5 percent of reports are false.
It is important that community leaders educate themselves in order to understand the toll sexual violence takes on a community. There is a significant emotional toll: Sexual assault is linked to increased rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and suicidal thoughts. There is an educational and societal toll: Imagine considering leaving an educational institution in which you have invested much because the alternative is sitting in a classroom with your rapist. University associate general counsel Mike O’Brien accurately stated during the meeting with legislators that women in particular leave the educational environment after being subjected to sexual misconduct and a university’s poor response. Studies show that other marginalized populations, such as individuals identifying as non-heterosexual, transgender, genderqueer or noncomforming, experience sexual assault and harassment at even higher rates. Lastly, there is a significant financial toll to survivors and society, including lost income due to missed work, declining productivity, and costs related to medical care, social services, law enforcement and legal expenses.
As stated above, peer-reviewed scientific research indicates 5 percent of cases that are reported are false. Therefore, leaders in our legislature and UAF community should only spend 5 percent of their time discussing the ramifications of potential false accusations. Ninety-five percent of the time and effort should be spent ensuring the following: (1) the existence of clear and easy reporting mechanisms; (2) that individuals who file a report are supported and linked with resources to help; (3) that reports are resolved in a timely manner to guarantee a safe learning and living environment for all at UAF; and (4) that we work diligently on the prevention of sexual misconduct within UAF and wider communities.