Women deserve to feel safe on their own campus

At issue: the lack of women in ECPD

Our take: sexual assault survivors need police they can trust

It’s no secret that women are underrepresented in law enforcement. Only 28 percent of employees in the Boston Police Department and 15 percent in federal law enforcement agencies are women. Those are disappointing percentages, but Emerson’s police department fails to reach even half the federal rate. Just two out of 28 ECPD employees—around 7 percent—are women.  

Now more than ever, it is vital that women feel they can safely approach authorities and be heard when they come forward. Amid the string of sexual assault scandals and allegations that have emerged in the past several weeks, from Harvey Weinstein to Matt Lauer, more women are speaking out about their stories. As women in the broader culture of America are emboldened to reveal their experiences, Emerson students should likewise feel that their experiences are valid, and having women on the force helps create an environment where female students can more comfortably approach the ECPD.

Yet sexual assault on our campus continues to pass under the radar. Last year, ECPD took two months to release an advisory for a man who repeatedly assaulted female students. Likewise, Emerson’s Title IX office has come under fire for mishandling cases and withholding information. Even turning to this week’s opinion section, female-identifying students find themselves victims of casual gropings and the mind games inherent in toxic masculinity.

Administrators and those entrusted with student safety show a lack of basic understanding of the traumatic nature of sexual assault. This has no better evidence than the email sent by Emerson College Career Services on Wednesday afternoon reminding students of resources available to them if they encounter inappropriate behavior in the workplace. Though well-intentioned and a good step, it is simply not enough. It is the college’s only public statement regarding the nationwide allegations of sexual assault, and its casual delivery only underscores the general apathy toward student safety.

The recent wave of stories of sexual assault, some bearing the tag #MeToo, isn’t just a social media trend. Instead, it is the revelation that sexual assault is far more common than previously assumed, and that women are silenced far too often. It’s difficult to unsee the larger ugly reality of societal gender inequality after the publicization of innumerous accounts detailing male mistreatment of women.

The issue extends far beyond ECPD’s hiring. While it is true the department lacks diverse gender representation, this disparity is due to a larger societal trend rather than a lack of effort on the part of ECPD. Though, to be clear, we all need to try harder. We need to teach youth that they can excel in all professions regardless of their gender. This change needs to happen so the U.S. is safer for all people—especially victims of sexual misconduct.