April on campus is typically a time of intense work for faculty and students (exams, theses) and liberating play (Foss Hill in the sunshine, drumming in the CFA). April is also “sexual assault awareness month.” Sexual assault remains one of the greatest threats to freedom and well-being around the world, and college campuses are not immune. Our campus is not immune, as we were made so painfully aware last weekend when one of our students was attacked. Sexual assault is an act of violence. It terrorizes groups, most often women, in ways that can destroy individual lives and distort society. Awareness matters because sexual assault is often so hidden away. Survivors of assault must be supported in every way possible, and all of us must find ways to change the elements of our culture that fuel this violence.
College campuses are the front lines in the battle against sexual assault, places where we can raise awareness and generate a real community response to eliminate this form of terrorism. Here at Wesleyan we have been making strong efforts in these regards, from the ongoing work of Alysha Warren, our sexual assault resource coordinator in CAPS, and that of our SART team to the work of student groups such as Students for Consent and Communication and the Peer Health Advocates. Such efforts, however, do not make the event of last weekend any less painful. I’ve tried to make sure we were doing everything possible to support the survivor of the attack and to assist in apprehending the perpetrator.
Now we must do what we can to raise campus awareness, to ask ourselves what else we can do to eliminate sexual assault from our campus, to commit to working with and supporting those on campus already doing this critical work. We aspire to be a community of compassionate solidarity in which people can learn with inquiry and openness. Sexual assault is one of the greatest threats to our educational mission. We must work together to stamp it out.