Elizabeth Zwerling, professor of journalism, discussed her take on “Journalism and Reporting Campus Sexual Assault” Tuesday in the President’s Dining Room.
In 2014 and 2015, Zwerling published three articles about campus sexual assault for Women’s eNews, a multimedia news outlet with roughly 100,000 readers daily.
“Recent attention to this has to do with college victims-turned-activists saying ‘no more,’” Zwerling said.
The victims-turned-activists have coordinated their efforts in reporting their schools to the U.S. Department of Education, used social media to spread awareness nationally, lobbied for better laws and started an organization called EROC or End Rape on Campus, she said.
“The victims I spoke with were very candid,” Zwerling said. “They are activists, so they were already putting their story out there. The college students who started this positive movement are heroes.”
Zwerling presented statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice such as one in five American college women is sexually assaulted during her college years, and only about one in three assaults are reported.
More than 120 universities are under federal investigation for Title IX and Clery Act violations. Title IX, as Zwerling explained, prohibits gender discrimination in education, and the Clery Act calls for campus disclosure of crimes.
The first article Zwerling discussed, “California Campus Rape Bill Goes Beyond ‘No means no,’” examined the state’s affirmative consent law.
Last fall, Zwerling attended a theatrical program called Sex Signals, which addressed the issue through improv and sketch comedy. She then published “‘Sex Signals’ Turns Campus Laughter on Rape Culture.”
The last piece focused on teens in “Lawmakers Shift Campus Rape Conversation to High School.”
A 2012 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey found 12 percent of girls and 4.5 percent of boys in grades 9-12 reported being forced to participate in sexual activity.
Origins of the problems at the high school level include a lack of “safe relationship” and sex education, Zwerling said.
To increase education in public schools, California has expanded its “Affirmative Consent” law to include high schools; the federal government implemented the Teach Safe Relationships Act. Both laws were enacted this January.
Zwerling’s lecture shed light on a heavy topic.
“I haven’t been in the scenario where I have experienced it first-hand and to know it is that prevalent is scary,” Kelsey Cooper, freshman legal studies major, said. “It made me more concerned about…how people aren’t intervening.”
“The fact that it goes unreported is awful,” Dylan Gronseth, junior broadcast major, said.
Jennifer Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.