“No means no.”
“It’s On Us.”
“Step In, Stand Up.”
It doesn’t matter how it’s said — sexual violence plagues America. And Aggieland is no exception.
University-wide campaigns like “Step In, Stand Up” encourage students to intervene in instances of sexual violence, but that doesn’t always cover comments and jokes degrading victims of sexual assault.
During two of the three Student Senate meetings this semester, negative comments about sexual assault have been brought to center stage.
During the Sept. 7 Student Senate meeting, Student Government Association executive chief of staff Emma Douglas was accused by student senator Caroline Turpen of “politicizing her rape” in an effort to persuade senators to confirm her position. During the Oct. 5 meeting, Student Body President Hannah Wimberly confronted senators Taylor Baumann and Nick Page in front of the senate body after screenshots from a GroupMe — called “Sharps Army” — surfaced, which captured derogatory sexual messages allegedly sent by some senators about members of Wimberly’s family and joking about Douglas’ sexual assault.
For the first time in university history, women dominate leadership roles at A&M. Cecille Sorio is the second ever female Corps Commander. Wimberly is the third female student body president, and the first in 17 years. This is a historic milestone for Texas A&M — let’s not diminish it by allowing any member of our student body to degrade and insult the accomplishments of these women.
Battalion articles shedding light on comments made about Douglas and Wimberly were two of the most-read and reacted to articles of the past year, surpassing 60,000 page views combined and hundreds of comments and shares. Droves of current and former students publicly showed their intolerance for the comments allegedly made by members of the Student Senate. While the overwhelming support of Douglas and Wimberly reflects the mentality of a student body largely made up of Aggies who won’t tolerate this behavior, it has to happen sooner.
It isn’t enough to only refrain from participating in behavior senators in “Sharps Army” allegedly exhibited. It is not enough to denounce the behavior only when it becomes public or goes viral. It comes down to everyday interactions. We have to take a stand against it the moment it happens. That means when comments, jokes or situations that perpetuate a cycle of active ignorance and violence occur, we need to voice our intolerance the moment we witness it — no matter how uncomfortable it might be.
The university can only do so much to combat the kind of behavior exhibited in “Sharps Army.” While it can punish students for acts of sexual harassment, it cannot hold accountable every single person who utters a distasteful joke. It’s on us — the students of Texas A&M — to reframe the conversation about sexual assault and eradicate jokes about sexual violence from our campus.
When sexual assault— and comments about it behind closed doors or in a private GroupMe — happens on campus, it falls on all of us. When we tolerate sexual assault jokes or comments, we are helping to create a culture that diminishes the experiences of victims of sexual assault. It falsely communicates to those victims that comments like these are the norm, and that their pain and fear is invalid.
We, as Aggies, need to hold each other, and our student leaders, accountable. We, as Aggies, must demand that our campus is preventative rather than merely reactive to sexual assault and jokes about rape on our campus. We, as Aggies, must finally put our feet down and say enough is enough.