Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which should serve as a reminder that we have a year-round duty to strive to eradicate these heinous occurrences that erode the foundations of our community. Wesleyan has been working with groups on and off campus to be better prepared to prevent sexual assault and to deal with its aftermath.  We have partnered with Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services (CONNSACS), and that organization’s website has a wealth of educational material to complement what you can find on the Wesleyan site.  April should remind all faculty and staff to sign up for the ongoing Title VII/Title IX 2-hour workshops.

We’re fortunate that student activism around the issue is both courageous and thoughtful. The academic year began with the Memory Quilt and a visit by the Senator Blumenthal group looking into how we can better respond to sexual violence. As the semester draws to a close, there will be a screening of The Hunting Ground on April 28 in Goldsmith Family Cinema at 8 p.m.  Students will also be holding a Take Back the Night event on April 23.

We have four standing Title IX committees – comprised of students, staff, and faculty from across the campus – working with the greater Connecticut advocacy community on continuously improving our policies and educational practices as well as the efficacy of our interventions. If we are to transform our culture, here and around the world, we must all do our parts by educating ourselves on the myths and realities of sexual violence.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

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.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

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.