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Combating Sexual Assault on Campus

CMS passes resolution for mandatory education in schools

Perhaps it’s a matter of greater transparency, but the number of sexual assaults reported on our nation’s college campuses is alarming. According to the Association of American Universities, 23.1% of females and 5.4% of males among 150,000 polled students have experienced some kind of unwanted advance. Researchers used expanded criteria that ranged from unwanted touching to sexual assault.

The psychological effects can be severe, researchers reported. Violating behaviors cause long-term damage to the psyche, cumulatively harming as many individuals, if not more, than those injured by war or disease pandemics, and costing untold amounts in mental health treatment and loss of employment and productivity in the workplace.

In California, the state legislature passed and the governor signed into law legislation that requires specific education for both public high school students (SB 695) and public university students (independently legislated). Students in California must receive instruction in sexual assault and violence and information on the affirmative consent standard. This must include “an affirmative, unambiguous and conscious decision by each participant to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity.” Such education is designed to reduce the incidence of unwanted sexual advances, as well as assault and violence.

Last November, the Chicago Medical Society (CMS) Public Health Committee agreed that Illinois should follow California’s lead in this area. After hearing testimony from the original sponsor of the resolution, Ajay Chauhan, DO, the Public Health Committee moved for adopting this legislative model here in Illinois, thus requiring all public and private schools and universities to implement mandatory education as early as possible in the school system. The CMS Council endorsed the initiative in February. As such, CMS agreed to approach local authorities about formally implementing a program in the Chicago Public Schools to educate students about affirmative consent prior to sexual encounter. The CMS measure also asks the Illinois State Medical Society to lobby for affirmative consent education in both public and private universities and colleges. If adopted by ISMS, the initiative will move on to the General Assembly and State Board of Education, among other venues.

“The culture has come a long way, but it has so much farther to go,” said U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, speaking last year at a rally at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. “Until we make a pariah of all those who believe they have a right to say, ‘She asked for it,’ we won’t make the progress we have to make.” He added, “It is within our power to end sexual abuse on every campus in every community. There really is no excuse.”

An Illinois rally, held in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, celebrated the White House’s “It’s on Us” awareness campaign, which encourages students and administrators not only to respond to sexual assault on college campuses, but also prevent it. According to the White House, more than 300 colleges and universities have hosted student-led rallies, pledge drives, and similar “It’s on Us” events. Vice President Biden praised the Champaign-Urbana student body for doing more than any other campus to implement the program.

Update: The ISMS House of Delegates adopted an amended version of the resolution.


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