Smith: Responding to sexual assault


The Daily Iowan; Photos by Lily

UI sophomore Chloe Stone sets a candle down during the UI Sister Vigil for Survivors of Campus Sexual Assault on the Pentacrest on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017. The event included letter writing to Iowa senators and the signing of thank you state of Iowa flags to senators fighting the withdrawal of Title IX protections for survivors of sexual assault. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

According to a study conducted by the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network, women in college are three times more likely to be sexually assaulted than all American women.

As times are changing, the ugly truth of sexual abuse is being brought to light. We see a decline in reported sexual-assault numbers, but that doesn’t mean it is gone. We are looking at ways to fight back against sexual abuse, which brings us to an event on Jan. 10.

Iowa City’s Haunted Bookshop was vandalized that day when someone wrote on the side of the building, “A sexual abuser works here! Trust victims. I.C. can do better!”

More graffiti were sprayed on the front of building warning customers from entering the shop, 219 N. Gilbert St., and while someone was obviously hurt, this is not the way to handle the situation.

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First, you have to look at what such action really does to solve the problem. No victim was named, no abuser was identified, and while the police now know of the problem, no real justice can be gained with the information given.

All that was accomplished was the bookstore’s reputation was tarnished, and now community members may be wary of going there. And while there may be one person there who indeed is a sexual abuser, the entire business suffers instead of that person.

To top it all off, because someone took this course of action, sadly, if the victim decides to come forward, he or she could be arrested and charged with vandalism. Whether the person wrote the graffiti or not, the person could land in that sticky situation of being a suspect for the crime.

Outside of a few short moments of revenge, nothing was really achieved, and that is the real tragedy.

Fighting fire with fire is never a solution to the problem. In the moment, sometimes when nothing else works, it feels that fighting a crime with a crime is justice. That just isn’t the case.

Victims of sexual abuse should not remain silent, but there is a proper way to handle a situation such as this, and vandalism is not the method. Instead, they should go to a trusted friend, call one of the many rape-victim advocate hotlines, or contact the police.

All of these ways are legal and may help take steps to bringing the abuser to justice. According to the rape-abuse network, only 20 percent of college-age sexual-assault victims report the assault to police. I realize people have their own reasons for not reporting such assaults, but the only way to be sure to fix the problem is to making the right people aware that it happened.

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