In the past four days, two Mason students in separate incidents reported that they were sexually assaulted. By now, you’ve received two notices of these sexual assaults along with important information about services and resources available on and off our campus. I know that receiving notice about a sexual assault that has occurred stops many of you in your tracks—it stops me, too. But as long as it continues to be a reality, we need to address it publicly, discuss it actively, and work together to eradicate it. Because it’s on all of us to end sexual violence.
It all starts by recognizing that any form of nonconsensual sex is sexual assault. These are acts of violence that leave deep, long-lasting scars. I know from the experience of so many students who have spoken out that victims of sexual assault suffer both physically and emotionally. Furthermore, these acts interrupt the learning process at a time when students are meant to experience the university as vibrant and invigorating.
Ending sexual violence also requires that all of us must commit to doing something when we see something: We cannot simply be bystanders. We must make it clear to all around us that nonconsensual sex is unacceptable. And when it happens, we must give victims all the respect and support they need—by, for example, never blaming the victim.
At the New Student Convocation, many of you heard me encourage you to take care of each other, to embrace your Mason community, and to make it stronger during your time here. I want to reiterate the importance of this message—one more time—particularly as it relates to sexual assault.
Mason aspires to be a well-being campus where we all can thrive together. That means becoming a campus free of sexual violence. We remain deeply committed to these goals, and we need everyone’s commitment to end the violence.
I ask for the participation of all in our community to create a culture of care, prevention, education, intervention, and responsibility. You will soon receive additional information from Vice President for University Life Rose Pascarell about sexual assault prevention services available on campus, as well as upcoming programs of interest. Please take a moment to absorb the information, talk about it with your friends and colleagues, and pass it on.
Thanks, and take care of yourself and each other.