On April 4th, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan introduced their new sexual assault awareness campaign at the University of New Hampshire, which was chosen for its esteemed violence response system that includes 24-hour victim assistance. The campaign, which is intended to be implemented into K-12 schools and colleges, will present a framework for the duties these institutions are supposed to perform under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans sexual discrimination, harassment and violence (Yahoo News).
Biden has made significant strides in the past in terms of helping to advocate against sexual violence. In 1994, he helped to design the Violence Against Women Act, which included a range of measures that would help to fight domestic violence and gender-based crime— and also provided billions of dollars in federal funding to address these issues. In 2000, the Supreme Court determined that VAWA was unconstitutional because, some claimed, that implementing a federal solution for gender-based crime was beyond Congress’s authority. Congress, however, reinstated VAWA constitutional in 2000 and 2005. Biden continued his efforts in 2004 and 2005, when he helped to improve some of the problems of the National Domestic Violence Hotline by donating equipment and updating its services. Can you say “bad-ass male feminist”?
According to Feminist Campus Activism Online, under the campaign, “The schools will receive materials outlining their obligations to file complaints, assist victims, and pursue disciplinary action against students accused of sexual violence. Vice President Biden stated, “Students across the country deserve the safest possible environment in which to learn. That’s why we’re taking new steps to help our nation’s schools, universities and colleges end the cycle of sexual violence on campus.”
It certainly would make sense to bring this campaign to schools, where, students could learn about sexual assault in a safe atmosphere. But, many, sadly, would disagree with this statement. I can only imagine the immense backlash Biden’s campaign will endure once sexual assault prevention education is brought to k-12 schools. Many parents do not feel comfortable having their children learn about issues like this, as much as it would benefit them to learn about them. I have also encountered several students in my teacher education classes that feel the same way. They argue that literature that contains instances of sexual assault should be deemed “too mature” for middle school and even high school audiences—but I disagree. I feel that exposing sexual assault awareness to middle school students, high school students—and even elementary school students—is not out of line, it is, in fact, quite necessary.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it is horrible that we feel the need to teach innocent children about such horrible abuse; however, it is essential for them to be aware and alert about the issue. In case anyone hasn’t checked recently, we don’t exactly live in a magical land of butterflies and unicorns— there are terrible, physically and psychologically damaging things in our world. Children, whether we would like to acknowledge it or not, are often be the victims of sexual abuse, in fact, 15% of sexual assault and rape victims are under the age of 12 and 93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker (RAINN). These two statistics alone tell me that sexual assault prevention education is even absolutely necessary for elementary school-aged children because it could be instrumental in helping them to recognize offenders and prevent assault.
Not only is this campaign necessary for K-12 students, it is also necessary for college-aged students. According to a report from the Department of Education, approximately 20 percent of women in college will be victims of sexual assault. Moreover, in 2009, nearly 3,300 forcible sexual offenses were documented on college campuses. Awareness of sexual assault needs to be heightened in order to curtail it.