By Natalie Honan
Sexual assault and violence have been extremely prevalent in the United States, from Emma Sulkowicz to the unpunished gang rapes at University of Virginia, it is becoming clear that the college climate of many institutions are conducive to extremely harmful acts of violence, such as these. To combat these issues, colleges have started to form anti-sexual assault organizations and expanding resources available to survivors of sexual assault, these organizations generally work alongside administrative programs, provide peer-to-peer counseling, and advocate for their friends.
As of last year, Scripps College and Pomona College already had well-established, respective Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault. It’s odd that only two of the five Claremont Colleges had this resource, as each college’s social environment is so different. For this reason, one year ago, a group of eight students gathered to start Pitzer Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault, to provide an on-campus peer resource that’s unique to the climate of Pitzer because it is operated by and for Pitzer students.
While the organization is structured in a non-hierarchical format, Sarah Zimmerman and KC Chaviano co-chair Pitzer Advocates. Chaviano, who was the first to reach out to the Pitzer community regarding the formation of an anti-sexual assault group, shares an outlook with Zimmerman, concerning the necessity of Advocates to Pitzer College.
“Each school has its own type of student and way of running and its own personality. I know for a fact we’re running Advocates differently than the other schools. Firstly, its important students don’t have to go looking elsewhere. The second thing is that who we are is so different than Pomona and Scripps, so we need our own resource,” Zimmerman said.
The original group of eight is now expanding to add more than twenty incoming advocates, who will be trained within the next month. The application pool was incredibly diverse, including students of various ages, genders, sexual orientations, ethnicities, etc. The hope is to create a body of students who are able to serve as an educated resource to their peers and ultimately change the culture surrounding sexual assault on our college campus. Pitzer Advocates also hope to host sexual assault awareness events and collaborate with other clubs in the future.
The formation of the Pitzer Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault has been greatly anticipated and has the potential to change the way students talk about and react to incidences of sexual assault. While there is a lot of work to be done, the formation and expansion of this group is a positive step forward to combating this negative culture that shouldn’t have to be a part of anyone’s college experience.