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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

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UH’s sexual misconduct training normalized assault, downplayed victims


Slides from the controversial sexual assault training slideshow by Equal Opportunity Services.

A slideshow warning of the dangers and repercussions of sexual assault that UH’s Equal Opportunity Services office showed to athletes from 2013-2016 surfaced this week in a report by the Houston Chronicle.

Unfortunately, the presentation emphasized and prioritized legal issues and reputation of would-be assailants above the pain inflicted on victims when male athletes do what they “want to do.”

Slide after slide impresses that the fiscal consequences and damage to character were among the worst repercussions for someone who engages in sexual misconduct. This slideshow left EOS’s stance on sexual assault unclear due to the vague wording and distorted prioritization of repercussions.

The perturbing usage of the phrase “what you want to do” throughout the PowerPoint suggests that thoughts of sexual assault are normal, but they must be suppressed. This normalization abets the toxic mentality that sexual assault and rape can be chalked up to “boys being boys.”

Slides from the controversial sexual assault training slideshow by Equal Opportunity Services.

The lack of focus on victims of sexual assault epitomizes the hesitancy of survivors to come forward with their stories. The concerns of being kicked off the team, losing scholarships and disappointing your teammates advertised in the PowerPoint, and its lack of sensitivity toward victims, emphasizes that for EOS, the most pressing consequences may be the impact on one’s reputation.

According to the Chronicle, EOS stopped using PowerPoints altogether in 2016 and started using a more conversational approach to sexual misconduct trainings.

Opting for a different strategy is indicative of a shift in mentality, but we still need to have a conversation about this controversial PowerPoint.

It was defended by Mike Rosen, a UH spokesperson, and Richard Baker, UH’s Title IX coordinator, for attending to the fiscal responsibilities the University has to taxpayers, and for serving as a scare tactic against sexual assault, the Chronicle reported.

The reality of rape should be enough to prevent anyone from the act. There should be no need for additional scare tactics.

Unfortunately, this is not our reality, but concern and sensitivity to survivors should come far before the fiscal cost of harassment. This absurdity was embodied by 50 slides decorated in dollar signs and legal repercussions and only one centering on the trauma and emotional toll on the victim.

This controversial training opens the door to a conversation that needs to be had honestly and vulnerably if we plan to make any progress as a University and a society.

People don’t need to be discouraged from doing “what they want.” Rather, athletes and all students at the University should be pushed to wonder why they would ever want to violate the rights and dignity of another person.

Opinion Editor Anusheh Siddique is a finance freshman and can be reached at [email protected]

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