Dear America, Stop Oversimplifying Sexual Assault

Dear America, Stop Oversimplifying Sexual Assault

Our leaders are only contributing to the stigma.
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Changing the guidelines for how colleges should approach campus sexual assault is not something that should be overlooked or dismissed as another topic in this week’s news cycle.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued temporary new rules on Sept. 22 that, if made permanent, will grant more leniencies toward those accused of sexual assault. The Trump Administration believes that reversing the Obama Administration’s guidelines will provide everyone with “more confidence in [the process’] outcomes”, commented DeVos, according to The Guardian.

DeVos expects that the new guidelines will help all students be treated “fairly”, but there is one inherent flaw: her guidelines operate on the assumption that survivors of sexual assault lie.

According to National Sexual Violence Resource Center, it is incredibly difficult to determine when there are false reports made about sexual assault since investigative techniques vary. When comparing the Obama-era guidelines to the newly proposed guidelines, The Guardian reported, “Under Obama’s instructions from 2011 and 2014, colleges were notified the department expected them to use ‘the preponderance of the evidence’ standards, while DeVos lets colleges choose between that standard and ‘the clear and convincing evidence standard.’”

As it stands, DeVos’ guidelines will permit the leeway that the Center cautions against, indicating that her guidelines will do greater harm to investigations. The Center also reported, “Misconceptions about false reporting rates have direct, negative consequences and can contribute to why many victims don’t report sexual assaults.”

As of 2015, the Center reported, “One in 5 women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college.” Additionally, it noted that more than 90 percent of survivors do not report their assault. If you are a survivor, DeVos’ standard will likely be much more difficult to meet because now there will be a policy that supports people’s preconceived notions and prejudices.

As reported by NBC News, National Women’s Law Center President and CEO Fatima Goss Graves stated, “This is not something to rush out. This [guidance] is a mess. This is only creating confusion and may lead to systems that in affect punish survivors.” Of particular concern to Goss Graves is a footnote that states, “The standard of evidence for evaluating a claim of sexual misconduct should be consistent with the standard the school applies in other student misconduct cases”, in effect, putting these claims on par with misconduct such as plagiarism or cheating.

If DeVos’ guidelines are enacted, the likelihood that statistics will lower for how many survivors do not come forth seems unlikely. Even if we maintain Article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that anyone charged is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, it does not mean that measures on campuses should be taken only after the accused is tried, which could take several years. There has to also be consideration for the person reporting the assault, which the current administration seems set against.

The psychological distress that the updated Title IX Policy may put on survivors for the sake of the accused should make everyone — from the public to the legislative branch — hesitant. Moreover, if there is going to be reform, it should be for the right reasons.

Reform should not come because the Trump Administration wants to simply “clean house” of the former administration’s policies. It should not come because they think that survivors are liars or because reporting sexual assault could “ruin the accused’s life.” If anything, often the accused receive more sympathy than those who many people label as “whistle blowers.”

Our campuses need to be better educated with regard to sexual assault. There needs to be a consistent standard for how it is investigated and processed by law enforcement and campuses, and it should not be changed because there is some deep-seeded need to reverse former policies.

Overall, our leaders need to stop oversimplifying sexual assault and in turn, contributing to the stigma that already surrounds assault as a whole.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr

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An Open Letter From The Plus-Size Girl

It's OK not to be perfect. Life is more fun that way.

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To whoever is reading this,

My entire life has been a juggling match between my weight and the world. Since I was a young girl every single doctor my family took me to, told me I needed to lose weight. The searing pain of those words still stabs me in the side to this day. I have walked past stores like Hollister and American Eagle since I was 13.

Being plus-size means watching girls the same age as you or older walk into a store that sells the cutest, in style clothing and you having to walk into a store that sells clothes that are very out of style for a young girl. Being plus-size means being picked last in gym class, even if you love sports.

Being plus-size means feeling like you have to suck it in in pictures so you don't look as big next to your friends. Being plus-size means constantly thinking people are staring at you, even if they aren't.

The number on the scale haunts me. Every single time I think about the number I cringe.

Can I just say how going shopping is an absolute nightmare? If you haven't noticed, in almost every store (that even has plus sizes to begin with) plus-size clothing is closed off and secluded from the rest of the store. For example, Forever 21, There are walls around every side of the plus "department."

Macy's plus department is in the basement, all the way in the back corner. We get it that we are not what society wants us to look like but throwing us in a corner isn't going to change the statistics in America today. That being that 67% of American women are plus-size.

My life is a double-digit number being carved into my jiggly arms and thunder thighs. It is me constantly wanting to dress cute but turning to running shorts and a gigantic sweatshirt instead so that people don't judge me on my size.

It is time that the American society stops making plus size look like a curse. It will never be a curse. If every person was the same size, what would be the point of uniqueness? I will never despise who I am because while I was growing up multiple people told me that I needed to be a size 6 in order for a guy to fall in love with me. I will never hate myself for getting dressed up and being confident.

To all the girls reading this who may be plus-size,

It's OK! You're beautiful and lovable. If you want to buy that crop top, buy it. Life is too short to hide behind a baggy T-shirt. We are just as gorgeous as the girls that we envy. Be the one to change the opinion of the world. Fat rolls don't need to be embarrassing. Your stretch marks are beautiful. Don't ever let the world tell you not to eat that cheeseburger either.

In the end, this earthly life is temporary. We are on this earth for a blink of an eye. Don't let anything stand in your way. Wear the bikini, the crop top, and the short shorts. Post the sassy selfie you've had on your phone for 6 months and you won't post because you have a double chin or your head looks "too big." Who cares. BE YOU and love yourself while you're at it.

I'll start.

Cover Image Credit: Victoria Hockmeyer

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The Rejuvenating Qualities Of Panama City Beach

There are definitely some healing properties in these ocean waves.

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We have gone to the beach quite a few times this summer season. We live around 2 hours away and try to make it to Panama City Beach at least once a week. It's a venture for sure, but compared to the 7-day drive from The Rockies of Colorado to the Peanut Capital of the World, Dothan, Alabama (a time in which no one has heard of) we can't really make any excuses.

Now, I am sitting here typing away in the early morning while watching a summer storm blow in over the sea but, make no doubt about it, the ocean and its shores are one of the most healing, rejuvenating places on this planet. There is a calm in the break of the waves on the shoreline, and yet it pairs with an unspoken knowledge that the ocean is this uncontrollable force.

This isn't a speech on saving the planet and being eco-friendly, recycling and watching out for our beaches, which is a topic I am very passionate about and a post I would totally create. This is simply an open letter to those who might need to get away in order to revive their souls.

If you are anything like me, you have emotions pulsing through you at all times, ideas about everything under the sun, a longing to explore and adventure, and a deep need for rest, all at the same time. There are not many things in this world that truly satisfy me. There is a lot of disappointment. There is a lot of wrongdoing and suffering. It's overwhelming.

That is why I come to the beach. It removes the overwhelming things.

You see, there is nothing complicated about the waves (unless you make it complicated, but we stay away from people like you). They are simple. They are peaceful. And 99% of the time in my life that is what I need, simplicity and peace. I over-complicate things myself, I make excuses and I feel hurt in most moments of my life. I lived an exposed, vulnerable lifestyle that drains me.

That is why I love the ocean. It replenishes my drained soul. It energizes me. It is motivating and inspiring, relaxing and unwinding.

I don't pass out advice. I never have. I do, however, try living an honest life, always in the moment, so I can share my experiences in hopes that others might find them helpful. That is precisely why I am writing this. Because if you could just get to the beach, to a shoreline, it might change you. Seeing this vast landscape changes your perspective on the situations in your life you thought might overtake you.

The ocean speaks. It heals. It tells your worries to cease and your mind to rest. It tells your body to relax and your busy schedule that there IS time to take a moment. Don't forget to take a moment for yourself this summer season.

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