Sexual assault on college campuses and the meaning of consent have become topics of discussion in the media and at universities across the state and nation. On Nov. 2, The Salt Lake Tribune will host Confronting Rape Culture: a Conversation About Consent in the S.J. Quinney College of Law building. The panel will include Cara Michele Tangaro, Kiman Kaur, Saeed Shihab, Nubia Pena and Jessica W. Luther.
Luther is an investigative reporter that began reporting on sexual assault cases involving college athletes in 2013. During that year, multiple football players had been charged with rape. She discovered that the media was putting more emphasis on the team and institution instead of the victim and crime that was committed.
“I didn’t like how we were talking about it. I didn’t like the focus on the team, what was going to happen to the team, [the players’] athletic careers. There was something wrong about how little was about the violence and acknowledging there was a woman that might have been harmed,” Luther said.
As a freelance journalist, she realized the impact she could make by reporting sexual assault in a way that would spark conversation about the issue.
“There was an inertia to this work. Once you start writing about it, especially in a way where you do bring in the survivor and include them in the story and re-center how you frame things… survivors started contacting me and I haven’t stopped [writing about it].”
Her book, “Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and Politics of Rape,” was recently published and focuses on sexual assault within college sports.
The event will provide an opportunity to discuss rape and the meaning of consent, both of which are topics that can be difficult to address and define.
“A lot of experts say you need to start educating perpetrators,” said Rachel Piper, an editor for The Salt Lake Tribune. “Without much knowledge of what consent is, people are perpetrators without realizing it. A way to educate and prevent this is to make sure people know what consent is.”
Piper, along with a team of reporters at the Tribune, have been reporting on sexual assault cases on college campuses throughout Utah this year. Several cases involved students that reported being sexually assaulted to their universities and the schools did not take action on behalf of the victim.
“People are trying to build awareness so that students do know they have resources on campus to help them,” Piper said. “We’ve seen a lot of the cases we’ve looked at this year, many of the women who report sexual assault leave school. Often, perpetrators stay on campus and it’s the woman’s college career that is interrupted,”
According to Luther, universities also need assistance with their policies on rape and how it is reported.
Luther said, “[Schools] need to have conversations about consent and education and be willing to talk about these things.”