Students meet to end sexual violence on campus
It turns out that even though sexual violence isn’t the easiest thing to talk about, there are still plenty of Loggers who care enough to not keep silent. Late in the evening of Oct. 30, more than 40 students packed into the Student Diversity Center, filling up all of the couches, seats and most of the floor for a discussion on rape, sexual assault and harassment in the Puget Sound community.
Everyone had different reasons for being there, but they all shared similar goals and interests. Almost everybody had close friends or family members that were victims of sexual violence. A few were survivors themselves. The common denominator was a desire to make the school a safer place for all students.
Junior Sadie Boyers was one of the key figures orchestrating the meeting.
“What drew me towards starting this group and to start discussions about sexual assault on this campus were my experience and hearing other peoples’ [experiences] and not having any outlets to talk about it,” she said.
Boyers explained that survivors at Puget Sound are usually not allowed to talk openly about their cases because of University rules and procedures.
“I was really frustrated with that, because that’s all I wanted to do, and I didn’t think it was fair for the school to shut students down,” Boyers said.
That left Boyers with a limited number of outlets after her case had run its course in the university system, but that’s something she is trying to change.
“I wanted to have discussion with students about what they need, what they think the school does well, what can be improved, and to just know that there are supportive people out there outside of your group of friends and the [University] administration,” she said.
Co-coordinating the event was Ellen Want, who has been concerned about the support available to assault survivors on campus as well.
“I wanted… to start a conversation about what else we can do to change the rape culture on campus and to provide more resources to someone who has been through [an assault],” Want said.
Want expressed thoughts and feelings similar to Boyers: There needs to be more dialogue between assault survivors and the rest of the campus community, both as a way of responding to sexual violence and as a means of preventing it. Education is key to prevention.
“A large part of rape culture is that it isn’t talked about,” Want said.
Too many people lack a basic understanding of what rape and sexual assault are and why they occur. Much of the discussion at the meeting was geared towards finding better ways to educate the community about having healthy, safe sex with enthusiastic consent from everyone involved.
Participants in the Tuesday night meeting acknowledged that between Security Services, Counseling, Health, and Wellness Services (CHWS), Residence Life and other University departments, there are plenty of ways to get help immediately following a sexual assault. Additionally, the school allows survivors to proceed at whatever pace they would like; there is no deadline to report an assault, and cases only proceed at the assault survivor’s behest.
Even so, the group expressed their desire for support networks and programs geared toward prevention. Green Dot was of particular interest to many people who attended the discussion. The program, created to mitigate power-based personal violence such as sexual violence, stalking and partner violence, gives presentations to the incoming freshman class during fall orientation and offers “Bystander Training” periodically throughout the year.
Despite its good intentions, one of the discussion attendees remarked that, “Green Dot has … become a joke on campus.” Students regularly use the program’s name as a way of making light of uncomfortable situations or belittling real instances of sexual violence. The attendees expressed a desire to reinvigorate the program and reclaim its legitimacy.
Boyers was thrilled with the turnout for the first discussion and the possibility of collaboration with other students going forward.
“We have so much power as students, and there was a group of 40 of us in here … and everybody stayed for an hour and a half. They clearly care … I’m excited about everything we can do,” Boyers said.
If you or someone you know has survived a sexual assault and would like assistance, there are a number of places from which to seek help.
Security Services (253-879-3311) and the Tacoma Police (911) are available for an immediate response to your safety and wellbeing. Medical attention is available at CHWS or at the Tacoma General Hospital Emergency Room. The Sexual Assault Center of Pierce County has advocates available 24 hours a day (253-424-RAPE) and are trained to help you in whatever circumstances you might be in.
Counseling is available at CHWS and from the University Chaplain. If you are living in a residence hall, your RA or the on-call RA can connect you with whomever or whatever you might need as well.