Bonamici talks campus sexual assault at Pacific
On Monday, April 30, students from Pacific University's Center for Gender Equity and Campus Wellness organization met with U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici to discuss issues of campus sexual assault and how students and staff at the university are addressing it.
"One of the things that I care about deeply is making sure that not only are students safe on campus, but students feel safe on campus," Bonamici said. "Right now on the (U.S. House) Education Committee, they are talking about rewriting the Higher Education Act where a lot of the campus sexual assault policies are. I look at Oregon, and I see a lot of good things happening in many of our colleges and universities, and I want to take the lessons of what we are doing right and take those back with me as we engage in that process in making sure that we get the policy right."
Students from Campus Wellness work specifically to address issues of sexual assault on campus, including working with victims, said Martha Rampton, director of the Center for Gender Equity. Students from the Center for Gender Equity focus on the topic, and many other issues surrounding gender equity, as well.
The small group of students representing both organizations at Monday's event shared some of the things they are doing together to address the prevalent issue.
One student mentioned their positive experience during freshman orientation where they learned about consent and sexual health, most of it for the first time in a school setting.
"I'd actually like to start (that) earlier," Bonamici chimed in. "Definitely (in) high schools, maybe middle schools, teaching safe relationships. ... The more we can prevent, the less we have to deal with."
Another student said the organizations host several workshops throughout the year for students, and they have found interactive ways to discuss consent. For example, one workshop uses pizza as a metaphor for "how people discuss what they want on their pizza, and how you should use that kind of conversation style when you're talking about what you want in a relationship," the student said.
The center also offers workshops for student athletes, who make up a third of the student population. Several students said they had seen an increase in student athletes' inclination to report incidents of alcohol use and unhealthy relationships.
Another event Pacific holds to address the campus issues is called "Step Into Her Shoes," a student shared, where male students wear heels and do a sort of relay to see what it's like to be a woman and to bring awareness to sexual assault.
Bonamici commended the students for their work addressing these difficult issues with other students, and she asked whether they think the events and workshops have had a positive effect. All said they did. She then spoke privately with the group of students after the discussion.
Rampton, who is also a history professor at Pacific, said Bonamici reached out to the school to set up the discussion, which she and the students were excited about.
"It was an opportunity to work hand in hand with someone who is making a difference," Rampton said. "We have benefited here from some of the legislation that Bonamici has been behind. We have seen the efforts of the congresswoman on our campus."