Sexual assault – I hate to even hear those words. Unfortunately in 2021, no city, town or University is immune from these horrible incidents, including Clemson. One doesn’t have to look very far to find statistics that remind us these crimes continue to occur way too often. In fact, we know students at Clemson — both on- and off-campus — have recently been impacted.
Even though official reports are low, one sexual assault is too many, and we know these acts occur more frequently than reports reflect. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, 26.4% of female and 6.8% of male undergraduate students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation. This is a very sad commentary and should be a call to action for everyone who has the ability and opportunity to stop these tragedies and change any attitude that continues, in any form, to view this as normal or appropriate behavior.
For anyone reading this message, let me be perfectly clear and unequivocal – sexual assault is a destructive and traumatic experience for survivors, their families, those who care about them, and communities. It creates life changing impact from a physical, mental and emotional perspective. It violates the survivor in the most personal way. It is wrong at every level, and it is criminal. Therefore, regardless of what some may think, it can never be considered normal or appropriate. It is critical that each of us condemn this behavior in the strongest way to demonstrate our commitment to stopping its impact from hurting others.
For these reasons, my partners and I across the University who work daily to provide a safe and secure environment for everyone to live, learn and play, want those who make up Clemson’s campus community to understand we are committed to continual education! We are committed to instruction that provides clarity and understanding about the negative outcomes associated with sexual violence. We also are focused on creating direct action to enhance awareness about this issue and ensure that each person understands how they can be a part of changing attitudes about sexual violence and its impact. We accomplish this through building trusting and respectful relationships with campus organizations and local advocacy groups, implementing policies, training, investigative procedures that are trauma-informed and survivor centric, and working collectively to provide survivors with resources and support throughout the entire ordeal. We utilize contemporary crime prevention techniques and technology to create the safest physical environment possible.
While these are important elements in sexual assault prevention and response, it is not enough because it does not include those who have the greatest opportunity to achieve a true change. It does not include the friends, peers and bystanders who can call out those individuals who still believe sexual assault is normal or appropriate behavior. It does not include those who think it is someone else’s responsibly to step in and stop someone from leaving a party, bar or club who may not have the capacity to say no or stop an assault. In addition, it does not include all of us who are able and can speak up against derogatory and disrespectful statements, jokes, visuals and comments relating to inappropriate sexual behaviors. Finally, it doesn’t include those who fail to understand the destruction caused by their attitudes and actions.
In essence, it doesn’t include a holistic approach to changing attitudes and how we all view this conduct. Without this, I am afraid that we will continue to hear about sexual assaults all too often and continue to have survivors who experience horrors and lifelong impacts that could have been prevented. The question that we must all answer — are we willing to be the one to make a difference and step forward to stop sexual violence? I am committed to doing my part to educate, support and defend survivors, and hold those accountable who engage in or support any form of sexual violence. Are you ready to make that commitment with me?
Together, we can stop sexual assault and prevent harm. Regardless of who you are or your knowledge about this issue, commit yourself to be strong, bold and engaged. Your actions could save a friend, family member or a complete stranger from suffering the trauma associated with sexual violence. If you are interested in partnering with Clemson University Police Department (CUPD) to increase awareness about this problem, learn how you can be an active bystander or participate in a Rape Aggression Defense course, please contact Sergeant Michelle Young at 864-656-2222.
Gregory G. Mullen
Associate Vice President for Public Safety and Chief of Police