November 22, 2013
Topic of sexual violence explored and explainedDuring my freshman year at Susquehanna, I was sexually assaulted by another student who lived on my floor in Hassinger Hall. He kissed me when I didn't want to be kissed. He held me down in my bed when I told him no. He repeatedly tried going up my shirt and down my pants, even as I tried to get up and told him to leave. But what was it? It wasn't rape; he never penetrated me, but what he did was equally intrusive, degrading and wrong.
Afterwards, I tried to seek help from my peers to make sense of what had happened to me. They told me to brush it off and that it was no big deal. He was known for being a flirt and a big partier. I just happened to be the girl he tried to hook up with that night. Unfortunately, I believed them.
However, two years later on another campus, I realized that what had happened to me in my dorm room did have a name: sexual assault. I was right to be scared and feel violated. What that boy did to me was wrong. Why had my school not taught me what constitutes as sexual assault? Why was it that when I sought counseling during my time at Susquehanna, sexual violence was never mentioned? Why was there no information, no helpline phone numbers posted in dorm hallways or bathrooms? Why was I left to figure this out by myself?
Feeling abandoned by my peers, my school and my community following my assault has been more traumatic than the actual act of sexual violence. Ironically, in my case I feel that the school did more harm in leaving me to fight these demons alone than the perpetrator did when he assaulted me. While researching Susquehanna's track record for sexual violence, I found out why I couldn't find the help I needed; according to Section D of Susquehanna's Policy of Sexual Misconduct, the school didn't even have a sexual violence education plan in place until after the fall of 2010, which would not have been taught until the summer of 2011, one year after my assault.
Susquehanna should be ashamed for not adapting a policy for educating students on how to protect themselves from sexual violence and what to do in the unfortunate case that such an event does happen.
It's not that there wasn't a need for a policy. There were seven reported rapes in 2004, three reported rapes in 2008 and four reported rapes in 2010. Also, keep in mind that the statistics for these crimes are vastly underreported, and it is estimated that one in four women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetimes. The rate of occurrence of these crimes greatly increases during college years.
As a community, hold your school responsible for protecting students from harm, including, but not limited to, sexual violence. Susquehanna cannot keep turning a blind eye to these crimes, and they need to make protecting students a priority. If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault, please take advantage of the new resources Susquehanna can offer. You do not have to suffer through this alone.
Former Susquehanna Class of 2014
Come see us!
I appreciate the invitation from Crusader editor Brooke Renna to share information with the Susquehanna community about the resources and services available to support persons who have been the victims of sexual assault.
What Ms. Chamberlain describes in her letter is unacceptable, and I am sorry that she was unable to find the support she needed to report and deal with the situation while she was at Susquehanna. I applaud her for having the courage to share her story now and for using her experience to help educate and empower others.
There were four sexual assaults reported in 2004 rather than the seven indicated in Ms. Chamberlain's letter, but any number is too many. It is true that sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes, not only on college campuses, but nationally. This needs to change.
Towards that end, Susquehanna reviews its Sexual Misconduct Policy annually and revised it significantly last fall in response to new state and federal requirements. Although we have strengthened some aspects of our programming to educate the campus community about sexual violence, these efforts are not new. Long-standing examples include:
* All first-year students are required to attend the annual Metamorphosis interactive theatrical presentation that engages students in conversations around living in and taking a positive, active role in their communities. The performance includes scenarios that demonstrate the potential for sexual violence on a college campus.
* Each year, in conjunction with the Metamorphosis performance, the Counseling Center distributes a brochure through perspectives classes titled "Building a University Free of Sexual Assault" (available on the Counseling Center website) that encourages individuals who have been the target of sexual misconduct to seek assistance from various departments including the Health Center, the Counseling Center, Residence Life and Public Safety. All are accessible 24 hours a day.
* Students may also contact the Sexual Assault Student Support advocates, a group of faculty and staff who are trained to provide support and referrals for additional resources to members of the university community who have been targets of sexual misconduct.
More recent initiatives include:
* "Think About It!:" a new interactive online course for first-year students that addresses drug and alcohol abuse and sexual violence. The program uses an integrated curriculum that acknowledges the often interconnected nature of these issues.
* An emphasis on the importance of positive bystander behavior - both to prevent inappropriate behaviors and to provide support for persons who have been victims. In addition to ongoing bystander behavior programming through the Office of Residence Life and Civic Engagement, the Counseling Center and the Department of Public Safety co-sponsored a program on Nov. 18 on bystander behavior as it relates to "stalking, dating violence and bullying."
To successfully combat the problem of sexual violence, we need the support and cooperation of all members of the campus community. You can help by educating yourself about the resources that are available and having the courage to speak up in support of victims and, even more importantly, to do whatever you can to prevent members of our community from being victimized.
UNIVERSITY UPDATE HEADLINESTopic of sexual violence explored and explained