10 Student Sexual Assault Activists to Know!: #1 John Kelly, Tufts University

Throughout the course of the last year, we at SAFER have proudly watched numerous student sexual assault prevention activists speak out against the prevalence of sexual assault on their campuses and call for changes to college and universities policies regarding sexual violence.

In honor of Sexual Assault ACTIVISM Month, SAFER will highlight 10 student sexual assault prevention activists around the nation who are creating change on their campus!

#1 John Kelly, Tufts University

John Kelly, SA Prevention Activist, on the right at an ED ACT NOW Protest. 

John Kelly is junior at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, who, after experiencing first-hand the inadequacies of his institution’s sexual assault policy and disciplinary process became an activist with ED ACT NOW and Know Your IX and has advocated for Tufts to change their sexual assault policies and disciplinary procedures. As a male, queer survivor of sexual assault, John has worked to ensure sexual violence against men and members of the LGBTQ community are included in conversations and activism around campus sexual assault.

 

SAFER provides student activists with a variety of resources, including the Activist Resource Center, which is our online library of sexual assault-related information and resources; on-campus Teach-Ins for student activists, which are led by skilled facilitators and equip students with the skills and information needed to bring about policy reforms and change; and, our Activist Mentoring Program (AMP!), which is our free mentoring service that provides students with continued support after they have completed an on-campus Teach-In.

10 Things All Sexual Violence Prevention Activists Should Know: #10 Meeting People Where They Are

10 Things All Sexual Violence Prevention Activists Should Know

By Jessica Torres

April is Sexual Assault ACTIVISM Month and in honor of all the hard work that has been done and will be done by college sexual assault prevention activists, SAFER has put together a “Top 10 Things All Sexual Violence Prevention Activists Should Know.” We will be posting one of the ten ideas/suggestions/concepts each day for the first ten days of #SAAM. Please check our blog and our social media for each day’s idea!

Systems and traditions that allow and reinforce rape culture don’t exist in a vacuum; rape culture is informed by everyday microaggressions, historic disenfranchisement of specific groups (like women, LGBT folks, and people of color), and quite frankly, it’s a symptom of larger problems we often don’t have the language to discuss. Here are 10 things that all sexual violence prevention activists should know and consider as they further their efforts to build stronger and long-lasting policies that both reflect and challenge the needs and understanding of sexual assault for students on college campuses.

#10 Meeting People Where They Are

 

-avoid living in the Ivory Tower. Buzzwords aren’t everything, contextualize your work in a way that benefits everyone participating in the conversation.

-folks are allowed to enter the movement regardless of how literate they are in the issues. Provide educational opportunities for folks who want to learn, invite them in and challenge people to think critically about where they stand.

10 Things All Sexual Violence Prevention Activists Should Know: #9 Realizing there’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution

10 Things All Sexual Violence Prevention Activists Should Know

By Jessica Torres

April is Sexual Assault ACTIVISM Month and in honor of all the hard work that has been done and will be done by college sexual assault prevention activists, SAFER has put together a “Top 10 Things All Sexual Violence Prevention Activists Should Know.” We will be posting one of the ten ideas/suggestions/concepts each day for the first ten days of #SAAM. Please check our blog and our social media for each day’s idea!

Systems and traditions that allow and reinforce rape culture don’t exist in a vacuum; rape culture is informed by everyday microaggressions, historic disenfranchisement of specific groups (like women, LGBT folks, and people of color), and quite frankly, it’s a symptom of larger problems we often don’t have the language to discuss. Here are 10 things that all sexual violence prevention activists should know and consider as they further their efforts to build stronger and long-lasting policies that both reflect and challenge the needs and understanding of sexual assault for students on college campuses.

9. Realizing there’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution

-every institution has its own unique cultural issues that need to be addressed. So while it’s useful to compare notes, remember to tailor your demands to what your specific community needs.

-be sure to push for a policy that grows with the needs of the community. If there isn’t a process to amend policy, push for that! And be sure to clearly highlight who to go to when it’s time to do so.

10 Things All Sexual Violence Prevention Activists Should Know: #8 Garnering outside community support

10 Things All Sexual Violence Prevention Activists Should Know

By Jessica Torres

April is Sexual Assault ACTIVISM Month and in honor of all the hard work that has been done and will be done by college sexual assault prevention activists, SAFER has put together a “Top 10 Things All Sexual Violence Prevention Activists Should Know.” We will be posting one of the ten ideas/suggestions/concepts each day for the first ten days of #SAAM. Please check our blog and our social media for each day’s idea!

Systems and traditions that allow and reinforce rape culture don’t exist in a vacuum; rape culture is informed by everyday microaggressions, historic disenfranchisement of specific groups (like women, LGBT folks, and people of color), and quite frankly, it’s a symptom of larger problems we often don’t have the language to discuss. Here are 10 things that all sexual violence prevention activists should know and consider as they further their efforts to build stronger and long-lasting policies that both reflect and challenge the needs and understanding of sexual assault for students on college campuses.

8. Garnering outside community support

-connect with local community members like small business owners, local activist groups, etc. Their understanding of the political landscape in the larger community is a critical asset for your movement’s sustainability

-if there are more colleges in your area, connect with them! Learn what kinds of strategies they’ve explored and exchange ideas. A great activist is always researching and building relationships with others.

-we’re talking about building safer communities for everyone, who isn’t into that?

10 Things All Sexual Violence Prevention Activists Should Know: #7 Building a sustainable movement that lasts beyond when vocal leaders graduate

10 Things All Sexual Violence Prevention Activists Should Know

By Jessica Torres

April is Sexual Assault ACTIVISM Month and in honor of all the hard work that has been done and will be done by college sexual assault prevention activists, SAFER has put together a “Top 10 Things All Sexual Violence Prevention Activists Should Know.” We will be posting one of the ten ideas/suggestions/concepts each day for the first ten days of #SAAM. Please check our blog and our social media for each day’s idea!

Systems and traditions that allow and reinforce rape culture don’t exist in a vacuum; rape culture is informed by everyday microaggressions, historic disenfranchisement of specific groups (like women, LGBT folks, and people of color), and quite frankly, it’s a symptom of larger problems we often don’t have the language to discuss. Here are 10 things that all sexual violence prevention activists should know and consider as they further their efforts to build stronger and long-lasting policies that both reflect and challenge the needs and understanding of sexual assault for students on college campuses.

7. Building a sustainable movement that lasts beyond when vocal leaders graduate

-make sure you reach out to newly matriculated students. Explain very clearly why they should care; sexual assault will impact all of us in immeasurable ways, oftentimes, without ever going away.

-build institutional memory, share your wealth of knowledge with anyone who may be interested in exchanging ideas in an easy, user-friendly, accessible space. That may be as simple as a curated Facebook page, a Tumblr, a blog, or even submitting articles to your school’s paper.

-document everything in some form of a database, this includes victories, big and small, as well as communications with key figures.

-diversify your leadership. Don’t just include the usual suspects as it will make the movement feel niche or unrelatable.

-learn your history! By placing your work in the context of your school’s activist history, you can take notes on what has or hasn’t worked before. And those who will come after you can do the same.

 

10 Things All Sexual Violence Prevention Activists Should Know: #3 Managing Conflicting Personalities or Methods

10 Things All Sexual Violence Prevention Activists Should Know

By Jessica Torres

April is Sexual Assault ACTIVISM Month and in honor of all the hard work that has been done and will be done by college sexual assault prevention activists, SAFER has put together a “Top 10 Things All Sexual Violence Prevention Activists Should Know.” We will be posting one of the ten ideas/suggestions/concepts each day for the first ten days of #SAAM. Please check our blog and our social media for each day’s idea!

Systems and traditions that allow and reinforce rape culture don’t exist in a vacuum; rape culture is informed by everyday microaggressions, historic disenfranchisement of specific groups (like women, LGBT folks, and people of color), and quite frankly, it’s a symptom of larger problems we often don’t have the language to discuss. Here are 10 things that all sexual violence prevention activists should know and consider as they further their efforts to build stronger and long-lasting policies that both reflect and challenge the needs and understanding of sexual assault for students on college campuses.

3. Managing conflicting personalities or methods

-find ways to connect with other members of the movement who you may be having a difficult time working with, on a personal level.

-finding an impartial and trusted mediator when things get too heated, this may be a professor, a member of a multicultural center staff or some other non-biased party .

-actively listen to what others are saying, don’t just think about the next thing you’d like to say.

-doing more does not mean that you get more, and being louder than other folks in the room does not entitle you to a leadership role.

-remember, you’re working towards the same goals. Don’t let egos and personal politics harm your movement’s potential to bring about meaningful change because a divided front will hurt your movement’s credibility.

Do You Know Your IX?

This is a guest post from Dana Bolger, Amherst College, 2014 and Alexandra Brodsky, Yale College, 2012, Yale Law School, 2016.

Pop quiz: Survivors of sexual violence on college campuses have the right to:

-       A) Demand that their assailant be moved out of their dorm, job, and classes

-       B) File a complaint against their assailant within their school’s disciplinary court

-       C) Receive counseling and academic support services from their universities

-       D) All of the above

Answer: All of the above. These rights come straight out of Title IX, the landmark federal legislation that most people know only as the law that governs women’s sports.

The truth is that Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments—strengthened by Vice President Biden’s Dear Colleague clarifying letter—guarantees students’ civil right to education unimpeded by discrimination, including violence and harassment. It’s a powerful but underutilized tool for creating safer schools.

Unfortunately, too many survivors don’t know their Title IX rights. That’s why we’re launching Know Your IX, a campaign that aims to educate every student in the U.S. about his or her rights—and what actions to take if they’re being violated.

Last week, we debuted our Know Your IX fundraiser. This summer, we’ll launch an information-rich website, followed by an extensive social media campaign to disseminate that information virally. During the first week of classes next fall, we’ll place full-page educational ads in college papers across the country. By the time next semester is in full gear, college students will know their rights and how to hold their schools accountable.

Armed with knowledge, students will be able to insist that their schools take active steps to stop sexual violence before it occurs, and, if those programs fail, will be prepared to stand up for themselves during disciplinary procedures. Too often schools have dissuaded survivors from making reports; with Know Your IX, students will know to cite Title IX’s prohibition on such administrative abuse. In the face of an informed campus, colleges will have to shape up.

Title IX can also be harnessed for activist agitation for university reform. In 2011, when one of us was a junior at Yale, the college’s deliberate indifference in the face of rampant campus sexual violence and harassment was too much to ignore. A team of students and alumni came together to file a Title IX complaint against the school. With the support of a generous pro bono lawyer, the group collected personal testimony and wrote up recent campus events to demonstrate all the ways Yale was out of compliance with federal law.

Based on the complaint, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights decided to investigate Yale, and discovered the extent of the administration’s efforts to keep survivors silent, the opacity of reporting procedures, and the incompetence of those charged with addressing violence. Yale still has a lot of work to do, but thanks to the OCR, it has completely revamped its grievance board and must stay on its toes to avoid referral to the Department of Justice.

An official Title IX complaint, though, isn’t the only way to use the law to change your campus. Our partners at Amherst have centered the campus campaign on personal narratives—most notably Angie Epifano’s—that exposed the school’s legal failure in an emotionally compelling form. While activists are still pushing the administration to make meaningful change, the public demonstration of Title IX violations was enough to spur Amherst to action.

Have you used Title IX to effect change on your campus? Reach out to us on Facebook and Twitter, check out our Indiegogo, and help us spread the word about students’ rights. As students, we have a powerful legal tool at our disposal. Let’s use it.

UNC Daily Tarheel Demands Changes to UNC Chapel Hill’s Sexual Assault Policy

Front Page of UNC Daily Tarheel on April 1, 2013

In honor of Sexual Assault Activism Month, on April 1, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s student newspaper, The Daily Tarheel, ran a cover story entitled, “RAPE IS A VIOLENT CRIME.” The article called for UNC Chapel Hill and universities across the nation to begin treating rape and sexual assault as the crimes that they are rather than as infractions of some amorphous campus honor code, and to start protecting and provide support to survivors rather than the perpetrators of sexual violence.

The article notes that until last year, the UNC Honor Court, a “quasi-judicial board made up entirely of students,”—which does not include the expertise of security officers, deans, faculty, legal professionals, or health professionals—heard and adjudicated cases of rape and sexual assault. The Honor Court stopped hearing these cases last year when the U.S. Department of Education issued the “Dear Colleague” letter, which included a set of guidelines regarding how institutions handle sexual assault cases to ensure policies and procedures are in alignment with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

UNC enacted the minimum requirements of the “Dear Colleague” letter, which included lowering the standard of proof required to determine guilt in sexual assault causes and the hiring of an individual to oversee the processes for determining guilt. But, according to The Daily Tarheel, the institution didn’t do enough in revising the university’s procedures and policies. For example, accusations of rape and sexual assault are still handled by an on campus organization—the Student Grievance Committee—that includes students and staff who are not required to be versed in how to address issues pertaining to rape and sexual assault. Primarily, the committee handles issues pertaining to harassment or discrimination.

The article outlines numerous ways UNC Chapel Hill could do better by its student body by enacting clearer and more comprehensive policies on how crimes of sexual violence are handled. For example, it calls on the institution to actively involve the Title IX coordinator in considering complaints of sexual assault, to involve local law enforcement in the investigation of rape and sexual assault accusations, to provide better primary and secondary prevention programs for students, educate on the consequences of rape, and to improve support services to survivors.

The article is also a call to action for institutions across the nation to evaluate and change the ways they handle accusations of sexual violence and support survivors. Rather than view the “Dear Colleague” letter and similar documents issued by federal or state governments as hurdles to overcome quickly, colleges and universities should view them as opportunities to bring together students, faculty, and staff to revisit their institution’s sexual assault policy and revise it in a manner that will provide comprehensive support and a clear path to justice for survivors.

SAFER stands in solidarity with the students of UNC Chapel Hill who are working to prevent sexual violence and to make their campus a more supportive environment for survivors. As shown in the results of the 2009 study “Sexual Assault on Campus: A Frustrating Search for Justice,” conducted by the Center for Public Integrity and National Public Radio, campus judicial proceedings regarding allegations of sexual assault are often confusing, secretive, and plagued by lengthy delays, which only serves to exacerbate a survivor’s feeling of victimization. Sexual assault policies that outline clear paths to justice and provide comprehensive information on survivor services on or near campus empower the survivor to report their assault, provide survivors with a clear understanding of their rights, and shed light on the institution’s responsibilities when an allegation of sexual assault is made.

For more information on your institution’s sexual assault policy and ways you can make it more supportive of survivors, please visit  SAFER’s Activist Resource Center.

We Asked, You Answered! Introducing SAFER’s Study of Student Activists

Last year we asked you, readers of our blog, and other student activists to tell us about your experiences working to combat rape on your campuses. Over 500 of you responded and now we’re finally ready to share what you told us. Over the next month, we’re going to be reporting our findings from Moving Beyond Blue Lights and Buddy Systems: A National Study of Student Anti-Rape Activists. But first we want to tell you the whys, whats, and whos of how we conducted the study.

Why: As we began our twelfth year, SAFER wanted to assess the current needs of student activists working to end sexual violence on campus and our effectiveness in meeting those needs. We are using the findings to inform our strategic planning and help us develop new resources and programs to provide support to students as they work to reform campus sexual assault policy. We also hope that by providing important information about the activities and perspectives of student activists, these findings will be useful to the broader anti-sexual violence movement.

What: The study consisted of two parts: 1) a national, online survey and 2) a series of focus groups. Outreach for the survey was conducted through SAFER’s constituent database and social networks, and in order to reach student activists who were not engaged with SAFER, we utilized SAFER’s partnership with a leading magazine for young women. The magazine posted announcements about our survey on its online social media. The focus groups were held at two conferences – a national conference for young feminist leaders and an NYC-based conference specifically for student anti-rape activists from traditionally marginalized groups. To increase participation and reduce sample bias, monetary incentives were provided to both survey and focus group participants. Both the survey and the focus groups explored students’ activities, priorities, perceptions, and needs related to various efforts to address campus sexual violence, with a specific focus on campus policy.

Who: 528 undergraduate students completed the online survey. They were from a diverse range of schools, in 46 different states and 6 countries, including a mix of public and private schools with a wide range of student enrollment (from less 2,000 to greater than 20,000). 19 students participated in the focus groups; they attended schools in Northeast, South, and Midwest and were from a wide variety of schools, including liberal arts colleges, community colleges, and state universities.

FUN FACT: Almost a third (31.7%) of student activists in our survey participated in Take Back the Night events.

Stay tuned for more findings from our study throughout Sexual Assault ACTIVISM Month in April. Thanks to all of you who took the time to share your thoughts with us by participating in our study.

For more information about the study, read the full summary report of Moving Beyond Blue Lights and Buddy Systems: A National Study of Student Anti-Rape Activists or contact me, Emily Greytak, PhD, SAFER’s Evaluation Coordinator at emily@safercampus.org.