EDITORIAL: Promote efforts to combat sexual harassment

York Dispatch

In a way, York College has been planning programming tied to Sexual Assault Awareness Month for years.

The college received a three-year grant from the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women back in 2016 and has focused each April since on staging events that promote awareness, advocacy and information regarding sexual assault and related issues.

But coming in the midst of the #MeToo movement, this year’s Week of Action is elevated in terms of both immediacy and importance.

More:York College plans 'Week of Action' for sexual assault awareness

It is no secret that sexual harassment and assault have been longstanding issues on college campuses. A 2007 report that found one in five female undergraduates had been sexually assaulted was reaffirmed in 2015 by an Association of American Universities survey, which put the figure at 23 percent.

And judging from the outpouring of personal stories from women who have come forward in the months since disgraced former Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein’s heinous behavior was laid bare, those statistics hold for the movie industry, politics, and many other personal and professional arenas.

More:The Year of #MeToo

So York College’s Week of Action offers a substantive series of programs that can provide enlightening and empowering information for a wide swath of local women – and men.

According to Liz Grubb, coordinator of sexual and relationship violence prevention at the college, this year’s events will focus on collaboration, resources, responsibility and intervention strategies — all designed to help would-be victims recognize, respond to and potentially defuse incidents of harassment and assault.

More:York College names coordinator of sexual assault education and programs

It is an unfortunate fact of life that such instruction is so badly needed, but the college —along with countless other local organizations devoted to education, nonviolence, public safety and equal rights — provides a valuable public service by providing it.

At York College, campus organizations ranging from the student senate to the inter-fraternity council to the LBGT support group LAMBDA are on board, attacking the issue from a variety of perspectives.

Students, obviously, should avail themselves of this important information. But the public, too, would be wise to take part. Among the week’s events at the college are several that are open to the public:

  • The larger-than-life interactive art display UNITY comes to campus on Monday, April 9. It is described as a response to the divisiveness and negative rhetoric in American politics.
  • York College is also one of many supporters of the 32nd annual Crime Victims’ Rights March and Candlelight Vigil, hosted by the York County Victims’ Rights Coalition. The march is to take place in downtown York at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 10. The program will include speakers and a candlelight vigil.
  • The college is also scheduling activities — at 7 p.m. at its Waldner Performing Arts Center — in conjunction with Wednesday’s Take Back the Night event, an annual demonstration against sexual violence that dates back to the 1970s. The fact that events such as the Victims’ Rights March and Take Back the Night have been held for decades demonstrates how deeply rooted issues of sexual violence are in our society.

York College is not the only local organization working hard to support awareness, education and support around issues of sexual harassment and violence, of course. The work, unfortunately, is needed year-round, and York is blessed with dedicated agencies and individuals that carry it on.

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But the College’s work in securing the DOJ grant, as well as a pair of grants through Gov. Tom Wolf's It’s on Us initiative over the past two years, is especially praiseworthy.

More:York College receives 2nd state grant to combat sexual assault

Whether Yorkers attend Week of Action events at York College, or related local events throughout Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the issues of sexual harassment and violence in our schools, our workplaces, our politics, and our society must continue to be confronted, countered and, ultimately, conquered.