By MELISSA FISHMAN | Staff Writer In a world where barriers are broken down through tough conversation, sexual misconduct is no longer the taboo topic of our parents and grandparents’ generations. Movements like #MeToo have ushered in a new wave of support for victims as a new generation of brave young men and women shed light on the pain they have endured.
April is marked as Sexual Assault Awareness Month and is dedicated to educating people on the topic of sexual assault and sexual misconduct, as well as honoring the victims of this heinous crime.
Sexual assault is defined as: “Sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim” according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN).
Sexual harassment, however, differs greatly from sexual assault because it typically involves a person who tries to impress or persuade a victim into performing sexual favors rather than physically touching a victim without consent.
Conversations about sex-related incidents have skyrocketed in recent months, due in part to a startling study conducted by UN Women and YouGov, that indicated 97 percent of female participants aged 18-24 experienced sexual harassment. This study exploded into notoriety on various social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok after the death of Sarah Everard in London in March.
Everard, 33, vanished on her way home from a friend’s house on Mar. 3 and her body was discovered over a week later in a wooded area after an exhaustive search. Her death, allegedly at the hands of 48-year-old Wayne Couzens, has since served as a rallying cry for women worldwide to stand up against sexual assault.
What is known about the time leading up to her death is that she seemingly did everything right, such as staying on the phone with her boyfriend and walking in a well-traveled, well-lit area, yet her life was tragically and senselessly ended. This is the case for many victims of sexual harassment and assault.
Even in America, sexual misconduct is an ongoing issue, including in politics. In recent months, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York and Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida have both been under investigation due to incidents involving sexual misconduct.
A once-celebrated governor of New York, Cuomo has been highly criticised as of late due to startling allegations that he sexually harassed multiple women, many of which had worked with him in the past. Despite the scope and severity of the allegations against him, he has repeatedly denied the allegations and rejected calls to resign.
Gaetz, 38, is being investigated by the Justice Department into claims that he was involved in the sex trafficking of a 17-year-old girl, according to The New York Times. The investigation into Gaetz is the result of criminal proceedings being held against Joel Greenberg, a Florida man being held on similar charges.
In 2015, New York passed a bill, commonly known as Title IX (nine), with the purpose of creating prevention and response protocols to incidents of sexual misconduct on college campuses. This would clearly designate how a school would go about instituting preventative measures, investigating incidents, and, most importantly, helping victims.
LIU Brooklyn sees the importance of sensitivity in incidents of sexual misconduct and therefore has a Title IX coordinator, Ashlee Burrs, who oversees the processing of Title IX claims on campus.
In a brief interview with Burrs by phone she said, “We [at LIU] always encourage reporting incidents and for students to speak with someone trusted on campus to get these incidents documented.”
LIU's sexual misconduct policy states that victims who report incidents to the school are entitled to have various protections such as: the ability to remain anonymous, receive support by an advisor through any subsequent conduct or judicial proceedings, and be protected from harsh judgement or retaliation “within the jurisdiction of the institution.”
The Clery Act, a federal law named for a 19-year-old girl who was raped and murdered in her college dormitory in 1986, requires college campuses to release an annual report of crime statistics on campus.
The 2020 edition of LIU’s Annual Security and Fire Safety Report can be found here.
For those who are seeking support here are some helpful resources:
To find helpful ways to process your emotions and receive guidance for your needs, visit https://www.knowyourix.org/survivor-resources/
For assistance related to Title IX or other civil rights laws, please contact OCR at OCR@ed.gov or 800-421-3481, TDD 800-877-8339
To speak with the National Sexual Assault Hotline, call 800-656-4673
To speak with the National Street Harassment Hotline, call 855-897-5910
To speak with the National Domestic Violence Hotline, call 800-799-SAFE
To file an incident report with LIU contact:
LIU Brooklyn Public Safety:
Ashlee Burrs, LIU Brooklyn Title IX Coordinator:
Ronald Edward, Campus-wide Title IX Coordinator: