Sexual assault destroys a standard of dignity

 Peony Lee / Illustrator

Peony Lee / Illustrator

“No man is an island, entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were.

Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls – it tolls for thee.”

John Donne’s “Meditation XVIII” about the intricacies of human nature rings true even today. The loss of humanity is a universal moral travesty supports the idea that we are all responsible for injustice anywhere.

One such injustice happened close to home last weekend.

The sexual assault against a Saint Louis University student in the Loft Apartments ranks top on the list of atrocities that are absolutely unacceptable; it’s our responsibility to reject this behavior. The stripping of an individual’s dignity in crass, domineering acts corrodes ideas of basic humane treatment. We need to meet some standard of respect in our conduct. Enough is enough.

The inability of people to respect others’ dignity is the root of insecurity. We lock doors and set up alarms. We’re vigilant because people take advantage of weakness. The assault happened in a setting where SLU’s Department of Public Safety and Security Services, while responding to the incident, was not able to prevent this horrendous event. They are not omnipresent. We must learn that our security, as well as our standards of behavior, is equally within our control as it is within the control of those who police us. This is a conjunctive effort; we have to meet DPSSS halfway in securing ourselves.

SLU students – every person – should stop creating more violence and injustice. Equally, we need to help each other when injustice occurs. Greater awareness about violence and security issues on campus as well as more training for dangerous situations is necessary. DPSSS will be launching a program named RAD (Rape Aggression Defense) for students which will be in conjunction with the St. Louis Metro Police Department and the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA). Classes will be offered. Several DPSSS officers and Housing and Residence Life staff members are already trained in correctly responding to sexual assault.

In addition to this future resource, we currently have SHAPE (Student Health Advocate Peer Educators), a student organization that works to provide statistics about sexual assault and substance abuse/dependence, as well as to dispel myths and common notions about human sexuality. They also examine attitudes and stereotypes regarding gender roles. Through free and public student events throughout the year, SLU students have already begun providing resources and education that can help us stay safer and grow smarter.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Martin Luther King Jr. and John Donne send us the transcendent message that we have responsibilities to uphold our morals. We can’t depend on DPSSS to save us, and neither can we always depend on each other to act benevolently. Striking a balance between vigilance about dangers such as sexual assault and correcting our own violent tendencies is key. No person is an island; collaboration will make SLU a more secure and responsible campus.