Town Hall Meeting Discusses Sexual Assault

Photo Courtesy of Delphine Burns
Photo Courtesy of Delphine Burns

by Delphine Burns

Editor-in-chief

       Trigger Warning: Sexual assault, harassment, and violence.

       During orientation week, first years are overwhelmed with all sorts of programs and events. They learn about academic success and resources, policies on campus, alcohol and drugs, etc. They also are required to complete an online module addressing issues of sexual violence and assault. Although this is a step in the right direction, sexual assault is still a prevalent issue on Pitzer’s campus, and college campuses everywhere.

       In the Sexual Assault Campus Climate Survey developed by Higher Education Date Sharing Consortium (HEDS), Pitzer’s response rate was 29 percent of students, compared to 31 percent for the seven Claremont Colleges, and 33 percent for the Undergraduate student response.

      It was found that of the 29 percent of Pitzer students surveyed, 12.9 percent report being assaulted. Pitzer had the highest reporting of sexual assault than any other Claremont College. This calls for action from the community to discuss strategies for preventing this issue, and ensuring survivors have the resources they need for recovery.

       Pitzer Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault and Pitzer Student Senate partnered to host a town hall meeting to discuss these statistics and raise awareness in regard to this issue. The meeting took place on Thurs., Nov. 12 in the Founder’s Room of McConnell at Pitzer. Faculty, community members, students, and representatives from organizations advocating against sexual assault met and discussed this issue from 4pm until nearly 6pm.

       The meeting began with Pitzer’s Title IX Coordinator, Marnie Bobich, presenting a slideshow with many specific statistics about sexual assault on Pitzer’s campus. These statistics included information on specific aspects of sexual assault such as unwanted verbal behavior, attempted sexual assault, incidents of sexual assault, type of sexual contact during the assault, drugs and alcohol involved in assaults, class year of survivors, sex of the assaulter, location of assault, survivor’s relationship to assaulter, whom the survivors told about the assault, and other information regarding this issue. To view the statistics and for more information, visit http://pitweb.pitzer.edu/blog/heds-survey-results-on-sexual-assault-and-campus-climate/

       After viewing the statistics, Pitzer Advocates seniors KC Chaviano and Sage Lachman led a discussion of the issue and addressed important information left out of the study. Then, for the majority of the meeting, two microphones were passed around the audience and audience members shared thoughts and feelings about the statistics, and how to ensure they are less jarring the next time the study is done.

       “I think the event is important because of the nature of sexual assault being a community problem,” Chaviano said. “When you have a problem in your community you have to address it by acting on what the community says it needs. I think the Town Hall created space for that to happen. One big thing students could take away from the event is understanding the importance of critical and collaborative thinking in addressing sexual assault.”

       Chaviano believes abolition of the high prevalence of sexual assault and rape culture on Pitzer’s campus is a community effort.

       “In order to end rape culture, it requires that every person in our community take responsibility for their actions, thoughts, and beliefs that reinforce this negative climate,” Chaviano said. “I hope students feel as though they want to start contributing to anti-sexual assault work, something that Pitzer Advocates wishes to facilitate.”

       Pitzer Advocates does just that by assuming this responsibility, and setting an example for the rest of the Pitzer community.

       “The main objectives of Pitzer Advocates are to support survivors, provide resources for the community, and to eliminate rape on our campus,” Chaviano said. “We hope that through preventative educational programming and peer interventions, we can stop members of our community from committing assault.”

       Chaviano recognizes that all members of the Pitzer community need recognition in the context of sexual assault to ensure that everyone feels safe and protected, and that no groups are marginalized in Advocates’ effort to create a safer community.

       “We hope to tailor these initiatives toward the demographic categories of particular concern that came up in the survey,” Chaviano said. “This would mean queer survivors, assailants who are women, survivors who are men, survivors of color, and more.”

       When the community discussed ways to help abolish sexual assault and rape culture, some of the proposed solutions were:

  • Extending sexual assault education for first years beyond orientation, and perhaps incorporating it into first year seminars or an additional mandatory half credit course. Statistics show that the majority of sexual assaults at Pitzer happen during a student’s first year.
  • Providing training and resources for peers in regard to disclosure. Statistics show that a survivor’s first disclosure to a friend or a peer is extremely important. The way that friend or peer treats the survivor during that interaction can determine what action the survivor will take next, and how they will recover.
  • Mandatory Teal Dot bystander training for all first years.
  • Conducting a second survey with more statistics about sexual assault at the Claremont Colleges.
  • Incorporating intersectionality into the research and discussion. Race and class are factors that must be discussed in this conversation.
  • Added focus on prevention, rather than focusing only on action after the incident occurs.

       If there are more strategies you think can help eradicate this campus issue, talk to Pitzer Advocates, and become part of the conversation. Do your part to ensuring this campus is safe and inclusive for everyone. To learn more about Pitzer Advocates, visit their website at: http://pitzeradvocates.squarespace.com/

If you need to contact an Advocate, the warm line number is: 909-576-2268 and the warm line operates during the following times:

Thursday 8pm – Friday 12pm
Friday 8pm – Saturday 12pm
Saturday 8pm – Sunday 12pm
Sunday 8pm – Monday 12pm

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