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Miami making changes to support victims of sexual assault

The following piece, written by the editorial editors, reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.

In this week's issue of The Miami Student, our reporter Carleigh Turner covered the recent findings in Miami's 2016 sexual assault survey. What she uncovered was truly astounding: 26.3 percent of female undergraduate students living in Oxford who answered the survey revealed that they had, in fact, been raped during their time at Miami.

It is obvious that sexual assault on Miami's campus has grown to a serious threat to the everyday safety of the students here, women most especially. The results of the 2016 survey show that Miami has not risen above the statistical standard that one in four women in college are sexually assaulted. Although Turner mentions the results may be skewed due to the survey's sample size, the results reveal that one in four women at Miami are not just sexually assaulted (which can be anything from touching to other forms of harassment), but actually raped.

Miami has only carried out this survey for two years now, with the 2016 survey being the second in what we hope will be a series, and has quietly been working on prevention efforts for a while now without doing anything above-average for a university. The need for these assault surveys is proof that the idea of sexual assault at Miami is not new. What is new (read: strange, wonderful) is what Miami is doing partly in response to this newest survey's results.

As Turner reports in her story, Miami is taking four big steps to becoming a safer school, both for victims and for everyday students. Most importantly, Miami is partnering with Women Helping Women, an organization dedicated to providing support services and crisis intervention for sexual assault victims, to apply for a grant to bring a sexual assault advocate on campus (the grant has not yet been approved). Miami is also in the final interviewing process to hire a fulltime on-campus Prevention Education Coordinator. This will, in theory, help stop campus sexual assault before it starts.

To provide more support to victims who have already experienced sexual assault, Miami administration also trained four counselors in the Student Counseling Services to have the specific skills to deal with helping victims. Their final step currently has been focused on strengthening the on-campus victims-advocate and prevention group It's on Us.

We at The Miami Student know that we have reported on sexual assault countless times. Even Turner herself wondered at one point whether or not we were "beating a dead horse" by continuing to report on this subject. She makes it clear, however, that this is not the case.

"But then you look at the [2015] survey and find that 20 percent of the people who answered the [it] still believe that when a woman is sexually assaulted while she is drunk, she is partially at fault. That's why we still have to talk about this," says Turner.

Miami's important changes come at the pinnacle in an era where rape culture and rhetoric is still rampant both on and off campus. Just last week CNN reported on problematic statements made by Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump's newest campaign manager and the first woman to hold the position in the Republican Party.

"If we were physiologically - not mentally, emotionally, professionally - equal to men, if we were physiologically as strong as men, rape would not exist. You would be able to defend yourself and fight him off," she said as part of a PBS panel at an event dedicated to discussing gender equality in the military.

Conway has since asked that Republicans running for any kind of office to simply stop talking about rape because the way they were handling it was hurting their campaigns.

With this kind of rhetoric coming from female leaders in America, we need changes like the ones Miami is making to reiterate that sexual assault is not something that can be swept under the rug and it is not something that can be put on the victims. Men and women at Miami need this help and education and we are glad that they will finally be getting it.

Miami deserves applause and praise for these changes. We look forward to watching the ways in which Miami will continue these prevention efforts and get that 26.3 percent down to zero.