I sent the message below to the entire campus community a short time ago. I am looking forward to conversations in the coming weeks with students who are involved in sexual violence prevention work, students involved in bystander intervention, and an open session with the WSA on Sunday, April 13th. There are also education and training opportunities being offered to faculty and staff and I encourage attendance at those events.
April is “Sexual Assault Awareness Month.” The problem of sexual violence on college campuses around the country – including our own – has received a great deal of attention in the press these past months. Although every report is painful, the problem is made worse when it’s hidden away. I’ve been impressed by the students here who are speaking out about it on their own. They understand that the problem of sexual violence is not one that can be completely resolved by some administrative “fix.” For that, we need the commitment of the whole community.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, between 20 percent and 25 percent of women will experience a completed or attempted rape during their college years. Is this appalling statistic true of Wesleyan? We will be using survey tools to better understand the problem here as well as making every effort to encourage survivors to report incidents. And we will continue to make clear that we have no tolerance whatsoever for sexual violence.
In addition to supporting survivors and creating a clear, effective process for adjudicating these incidents, we have been developing initiatives such as the Bystander Intervention Program that have a proven record of effectiveness. And because offenders often use alcohol to exploit potential victims, our work also includes efforts to shift norms around alcohol use. Any groups that are found to encourage binge drinking will be sanctioned or disbanded.
I recently wrote about these and other measures we are taking to address sexual violence. In the coming year you will be hearing much more about this issue and that of gender equity on campus from our Title IX Officer, Antonio Farias, and a standing Title IX Policy & Education Committee that includes students and trustees is actively addressing short- and long-term aspects of the issues. The increased discussion of sexual violence this month (and beyond) may be distressing to members of our community personally impacted by the issue, and I would like to remind them that Counseling and Psychological Services at the Davison Health Center provides a number of resources, including individual counseling and support groups.
For my part, I will be meeting with various student groups this month, including the WSA and students involved in sexual violence prevention, to discuss what more we can do to eliminate this form of violence from our community. I find myself thinking through (often in the middle of the night) steps we might take that will rid our campus of these awful attacks. Input from students and faculty is most welcome.
Take Back the Night this year is on April 24 – and I hope you will join me at this event where individually and collectively we can express our commitment to creating a climate in which sexual violence has no place. Together, we will continue our work to make the Wesleyan campus the inclusive, secure and equitable community we know it can be. This is a vital, long-term project. Together we can do this; it is up to us.