Colleges Aligned Against Sexual Exploitation

As I am finishing my second and final year of graduate school in social administration (social work in layman’s terms), I am very fortunate to be interning at a fantastic organization, the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE). The organization is an advocacy organization that strives to address the culture, institutions, and individuals that perpetrate, profit from, and/or tolerate sexual exploitation. CAASE is made up of three sectors: community outreach and engagement, policy advocacy, and legal services. Our vision is to eradicate all forms of sexual violence and exploitation from society.

CAASE has played a prominent role in influencing policy on human trafficking and the sex trade. Our End Demand Illinois Campaign (EDI), started in 2009, has produced many successes such as the Illinois Safe Children Act, which is the first law in the nation to make minors immune from prosecution for prostitution. Also, the EDI campaign has helped to pass the Justice for Victims of Sex Trafficking Crimes Act, which offers sex trafficking victims the opportunity to have prostitution convictions removed from their records.

Being a leader in eliminating sexual exploitation from our community, CAASE is frequently contacted by students who are interested in becoming allies and passionate about eradicating sexual violence and exploitation. Unfortunately, we are a small albeit busy office so we do not have the capacity for students to come into the office and complete projects. But CAASE did not want to shun such an important and zealous group of students. Therefore, CAASE has helped college students in Chicago and beyond start Colleges Aligned Against Sexual Exploitation chapters. The purpose of the CAASE chapters is:

  • To act as a non-profit, non-sectarian, non-partisan, voluntary organization affiliated with the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation.
  • To establish a constituency to work in pursuit of the elimination of sexual exploitation.
  • To study and take action on international, national, state, local, and campus issues related to sexual exploitation.
  • To educate the campus community about issues regarding sexual exploitation.

So far, we have started chapters at the College of Dupage, DePaul University, University of Chicago, Roosevelt University, and Northeastern University. We are also in the process of starting chapters at the University of Illinois Chicago and Loyola University. We are so excited to be starting these chapters.

College students are very important allies in ending sexual violence. As SAFER knows, sexual violence on college campuses is both pervasive and often not addressed appropriately. Student groups on college campuses who focus on issues of social justice are rooted in concepts of compassion and activism. These values form the framework for students’ leadership roles in human rights efforts. Indeed, prostitution and human trafficking are human rights violations that occur in communities all over the world, including the United States. More specifically, Chicago is a central hub for victims of trafficking. Approximately 16,000-24,000 women and girls are in prostitution a day in Chicago. Mobilizing students is one of many ways we can strive to eradicate sexual violence and provide support for victims of the sex trade and sexual violence.

If you are a student in Chicago and you are interested in starting a chapter, please do not hesitate to contact me at

Hell Yes, Colgate!

This week, students, faculty, and staff gathered at Colgate University to talk about how sexual assault has impacted their campus and what action they can collectively take. It sounds like it was an amazing meeting. First, students presented results of an informal campus survey:

Watts and Aziz surveyed 115 students, 71 female and 44 male, and received some interesting results. More than 50 percent of women surveyed felt pressured to “hook up” even though they did not want to. 48 percent of men and 44 percent of women did not know what constituted sexual assault, 36 percent of males admitted to being in an ambiguous situation where they did not know whether a woman was too drunk to hook up and 68 percent of women said that they had been called a derogatory name by a male.

What strikes me the most about those stats are the high numbers who couldn’t define sexual assault. This is a clear example of where an existing sexual assault policy isn’t doing it’s job. Colgate’s policy does not currently define consent, and while a sexual assault policy isn’t the only place where students learn about sexual boundaries, a policy that does provide such definitions (and requires prevention programming that does so) will at least give students a touchstone and a basis for dialogue.

A third student followed up by presenting her research on sexual assault prevention education programs on other campuses, including the MVP Program at Northeastern University, a really cool leadership/bystander prevention program that trains student atheletes and leaders to start important dialogues about assault and related issues, and speak up amongst their peers.

The meeting seems to have ended with survivors sharing stories, and I’m so impressed with the students who organized the event that they were able to set up/maintain a space that people felt safe to speak honestly in. There seems to be awesome momentum going, and I’m excited about things to come at Colgate!

Funding sexual assault prevention in a recession

Boston-area schools, like many, are struggling with how to keep funding for their sexual assault prevention programs as budgets are cut and money gets tighter. This is a concern that ArchDiva raised in a comment a few weeks ago, and one that I think we will hear about more and more as the months go on.

The key in many cases to keeping funding for sexual assault prevention programs is going to be student insistence, as well as faculty, staff, and administration commitment. The other opportunity for activists will be around the grants the Department of Justice gives colleges to start or enhance prevention programs. As the article I linked to addresses, I think making the grants larger and longer is a good thing, as it will really allow programs to solidify and prove their effectiveness before they have to fight for university funding. But it means that fewer schools are getting these grants.

We can push for more money for these grants and also for a requirement that universities commit to continuing to fund their sexual assault programs for at least three years after their three year federal grant runs out. Otherwise, what’s the point of getting a great program up and running, only to see it collapse for lack of funding, as may happen with Northeastern this year?