By Alan Moore, Staff Writer

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and it is time that the student body steps up its efforts to end these atrocious acts. This is a difficult topic to stomach because many people know someone who has been a victim, and the subject matter is unpleasant.

College students are unique because they hear about sexual assault more often than most people as a result of the sexualized and social environment in which they live. While extremely difficult to talk about, the George Mason University community needs to face these problems and commit to finding workable solutions.

Sadly, sexual assault in college is not normally perpetrated by some creep hiding in the shadows. Among college women, nine out of 10 victims knew their assailant. The problem lies in our community and in people we associate with every day.

Most have heard the alarming statistics that one in five college women will be a sexual assault victim before they graduate and 95 percent of attacks in college are not reported to law enforcement.

Why are these crimes not reported? Many times victims are afraid of the assailant or lack faith in the justice system. So what can we do about it as students?

First and foremost, men need to be a central part of the solution. We must decide to take a stand against these heinous acts. If we witness or think we are witnessing something that will eventually lead to sexual assault, we must not be afraid to step in.

We should encourage victims who confide in us to report what happened to the police and to the university.
God gave men the ability to lead and protect. We must always embrace those gifts.

As an undergraduate, I was very active in Greek Life. The environment was filled with alcohol and risky situations where sexual assault could happen. As president of my fraternity, if I saw something getting out of hand, I spoke up. I often talked to my fellow brothers about chivalry and respect for women because that was a part of our creed and it is the right way to live.

I’m not trying to condemn the Greek system at Mason by any means. In fact, just the opposite: I think Greeks are campus leaders who have the opportunity to make a real difference because when they talk, people listen.

There are also some faith-based groups on campus and in the community who recognize this problem and are committed to helping wherever they can.

Campus organizations and individuals should get educated on the facts about sexual assault. Sexual Assault Services (SAS) is an organization on campus dedicated to combating this epidemic. I highly encourage you to visit or call 703-993-9999 and find out how you can be a part of the solution.

Women can attend Rape Aggression Defense training as offered by the University Police Department. This free service discusses victim awareness, risk reduction and teaches practical self-defense techniques. The next program will be held on April 24 and 25 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Call 703-993-2800 to learn more.

If you have been a victim of sexual assault, you can reach an SAS staff member 24 hours a day at 703-380-1434.

As students become more focused on this issue during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I urge you to keep up your efforts year-round.