Sexual violence is happening on our campus and we need to do something about it.

Whether or not you know it, it is likely that every single person reading this knows someone who is a survivor of sexual violence, whether that person is a close friend, the woman who smiled at you on the bus or the man who sits next to you in your Calculus class.

National data shows that one in five women and one in 17 men will be a victim of sexual violence before they graduate college.

The recent Phi Tau email is not the root issue, but it is a symptom of the larger epidemic of sexual violence facing our campus. The Phi Tau email emphasizes and contributes to sexual violence at Tech, but we must not view it as an isolated incident.

This is not a problem limited to an individual, group or to the Greek sector, but a problem for all of campus.

Rape culture is when images, words, movies, jokes and other things people see everyday validate and perpetuate rape, by making sexual coercion or violence seem like normalized and inevitable parts of our society. Certainly, the actions described in the Phi Tau email contribute to rape culture.

By acknowledging that this email is part of a broader issue on our campus, we can begin a conversational shift to make this a healthier, safer place for every student.

Students on this campus should feel free to act on their personal values of sex and intimacy, whether that is abstaining from sex until marriage, only wanting sex within monogamous relationships, having frequent casual sex or anything in between.

As long as there is mutual and enthusiastic consent, any of those choices should be completely respected.

Consent means that the people involved in sexual activity are actively agreeing to every sexual act that is occurring, without being coerced or impaired in any way. That doesn’t mean you have to have a clinical or robotic conversation, but it does mean you have to check in with your partners every step of the way.

If you choose to have sex, it should be fun, mutually pleasurable and enthusiastic, not something someone is forcefully taking from you.

Though the number of reported assaults remains low, it’s not up for debate whether or not sexual assault is happening on our campus.

Many survivors do not report their assaults because of barriers that exist.

Many survivors fear telling their story and not being believed or that they will be ostracized or blamed for what happened to them.

As students, we can work to break down these barriers simply by believing and supporting those who choose to share their story with us. However, it is not enough to merely react after something has happened. We should, and in fact, have an obligation to, work proactively to make this campus a better place for all of us.

Let’s use this opportunity to start a conversation at Tech and say that sexual violence prevention is an issue that matters to us. We will not ignore it, we will stand up when we hear negative language, when we hear rape jokes or when we see someone trying to hook up with somebody who is too impaired to give consent. We refuse to stand by and let this continue to happen on our campus.

Stand with us and pledge to actively work to raise awareness of and prevent sexual violence at Tech. Sign our pledge at tinyurl.com/k7gujrd. For more information about sexual violence prevention and advocacy visit voice.gatech.edu.