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EDITORIAL: Stop endangering women on campus with insufficient safety measures

New CDC study highlights need to support women with both physical safety measures and mental health resources

It is important that Rutgers continuously advertise and improve its resources available to women on campus, like the blue light system. – Photo by Photo by Hamza Azeem

The U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control just released startling findings from its most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey: 57 percent of teenage girls reported feeling "sad or hopeless" in 2021, and 18 percent reported experiencing sexual violence, which are the highest levels observed in a decade.

Additionally, there was a 27 percent increase over two years in the number of school girls who have been forced into sexual intercourse. There was also a 60 percent increase since 2011 in the number of teenage girls who expressed that they have considered committing suicide.

These troubling findings are a wake-up call for society to better support young adult women, particularly on college campuses. It is especially important for colleges to care about their well-being and safety as a majority of the student population at U.S. colleges tend to be women. 

Specifically, at Rutgers, there are multiple aspects of the campus that compromise the safety of its women students. For one, walking at night is a huge concern on campus, and not just on the College Avenue campus.

Livingston campus, Busch campus, Cook campus and Douglass campus all lack substantial lighting to make students feel more secure when walking home, especially for those attending night classes.

More worryingly, there have been cases of disturbing sexual assault on the Rutgers campus in the past year that made the student body especially anxious and in need of support from the University.

There is an array of strategies and resources that the University could implement to look out for not only the physical safety of women students but their mental health.

When it comes to physical safety measures, there are a number of things Rutgers should do. It could increase lighting on all campuses, ensure that the blue light system works and make students scan their student ID cards before entering academic buildings and residence halls.

The Daily Targum editorial board has emphasized the necessity for these safety measures in a previous editorial addressing recent gun violence on college campuses, specifically the University of Virginia. And now, in the wake of the Michigan State shooting, these physical safety measures are of utmost importance and would benefit not only women on campus but all students in the fight to make college students feel secure.

Other universities have already begun to implement new safety measures for student safety. For example, the University of Delaware updated safety initiatives in October 2021, including expanding its safety escort program and shuttle service, evaluating lighting across campus and testing its blue light system.

But an article from the Delaware student newspaper in February 2022 includes accounts from women on campus who revealed how they still fear for their safety on campus. This emphasizes the fact that a real solution will not be found with increased street lighting or a blue light system. A true change can only come from society learning to respect women and making them feel safe.

This emphasizes the need for programs that force critical thinking and reflection on one’s actions. This could include using the Green Dot system, which typically guides student leaders through a 6-hour long class that is multiple sessions and dives deep into what it means to be an active bystander.

Studies have found that after completing Green Dot training, participants were more likely to "intervene in risky situations" and "less likely to accept rape myths."

Another program that Rutgers should look at is the Enhanced Assess, Acknowledge, Act (EAAA) program which focuses on sexual assault resistance training for women. Both Green Dot and EAAA programs are resources that Rutgers can look at to improve its existing required modules for incoming students.

Additionally, comprehensive mental health resources for these students are of utmost importance. Rutgers’ Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance (VPVA) provides a plethora of resources, including group therapy which is advertised on its website for spring 2022. 

These group therapy sessions included two groups that were open for female-identifying students, and it is important that the VPVA continues to provide group therapy specific to women students so that they have a safe space to process among others like them.

Counseling, Alcohol and Other Drug Assistance Program & Psychiatric Services also provide different forms of group therapy, but the University should consider adding a support group that is only for women.

It is also particularly important that we include trans women in this conversation, especially in light of Brianna Ghey's death. Ghey was a transgender teenager who was stabbed to death in Warrington, England, and the incident has incited fear among the transgender community.

Another useful addition to these resources would be self-defense classes. This could potentially be provided by Rutgers' Recreation Centers as they already provide fitness classes. It is important for resources at Rutgers to provide spaces that are for women and cater to their specific needs.

While there should continue to be groups and resources for all genders, it is vital to address the fact that women face unique challenges. Additionally, Rutgers needs to do a better job of reminding its students of what resources already exist instead of students having to struggle to find them themselves.

The prevalence of these worries among women on campus and the findings from the CDC study emphasize how universities need to take a step further when it comes to their well-being. Though Rutgers has useful resources already for women's safety, it needs to improve these resources until progress is seen and everyone feels safe.

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 155th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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