(OPINION): Support the Survivors
Updated: Oct 10, 2019
Author: Joe Janosik
We all know by now what happened with Larry Nassar and the College of Osteopathic Medicine. In fact, it was disgusting.
For those who don’t, 332 women between USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University came out against the cruelty of Nassar’s actions, and MSU brushed away their testimonies. Some claims dated back to the ‘90s.
Former MSU President, Lou Anna Simon, and Athletic Director, Mark Hollis, resigned in the midst. The Interim MSU President, former Gov. John Engler, would also resign before his term was due.
Fast forward to May 2018, MSU agreed to give the survivors of the Nassar scandal a $500 million settlement. MSU admitted they were wrong for covering up rape and assault accusations and not properly investigating accusations. Engler said the settlement would be paid by tuition and state aid.
Engler also went on to say, survivors were "in the spotlight … enjoying that moment at times, you know, the awards and recognition.” I don’t think we can create a positive culture towards supporting survivors at MSU while having administrators speak with such toxic rhetoric.
Michigan State offers a 24/7 Sexual Assault Crisis Hotline and an online chat open 10 AM to 10 PM, along with five support groups that survivors can utilize on campus. Including: Seeking Safety, Forward Together, Healing Through Yoga, Nourishing Your Whole Self, and The Next Chapter: Book Club. Each group is only available one day a week for one hour, which I believe is a problem. In order to fully engage with the survivors, I think these groups should be available all seven days of the week.
MSU also has a mandatory Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Prevention Program (SARV) for all incoming freshmen. Before the academic year begins, all students, regardless of class standing, are required to watch an hour-long refresh video about consent, coercion, and other subtopics in terms of sexual misconduct.
Endrape.msu.edu says SARV will, “[c]reate awareness of and establish a definition of sexual assault, rape, and relationship violence at Michigan State University.” But, they clearly do not work because we still have assaults on this campus.
The programs talk about how you can prevent sexual assault and how to console a victim you might know. But, I don’t think the programs don’t delve into the consequences of rape enough. For instance, someone who is charged with rape will be registered as a sex offender, will have restrictions on living arrangements, the odds of getting a job are slim, and life, well, it’s basically over. That would scare off potential violators.
However, I think we are stepping in the right direction. This year, Michigan State announced a new program: Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE).
SANE will offer 24-hour first-response medical care to victims of on-campus sexual assault. Hotlines will become more accessible and there is more transparency from the Title IX office.
Knowing and being a friend with a sexual assault victim has only made me more passionate about this topic. I was at the place of occurrence a few hours before it happened, and I know who did it, but my friend refused to report it. I was devastated when I found out about it because I knew I was there just three hours beforehand. I feel like I could have prevented it, if I had been there. It breaks my heart knowing she would rather shrug it off than report it because the university would barely do anything to help.
To the survivors, I personally want to thank you for what you did. When you said “enough” the student body of MSU listened and defended you. You started a nationwide conversation on how we can do better to ensure transparency. The university, because of your activism, is starting to turn in the right direction.
To anyone who is afraid to speak out, please do so. The Office of Institutional Equity at MSU, under the File a Report link, allows incident reporters to submit reports anonymously and there are more resources accessible to you than ever before.
Spartans Will support you.
Contributor Joe Janosik