As some you may have read in my first blog post with SAFER, I was a volunteer advocate for the rape crisis center on my alma mater’s campus. As a result, I attended many guest speakers and events that the center put on. For many events, the Greek life student body was mandated to attended — by the Greek life President, not by our organization. However, students who were members of a fraternity or sorority did not acknowledge that we were not mandating them and therefore categorized us as “men haters” and “Greek life blamers.” Going forward, it was difficult to defend the rape crisis center’s mission and stance on perpetrators of sexual assault. We lost our legitimacy among the Greek life population very quickly. These circumstances emphasized that blaming all men for sexual assault is a failure to the anti-sexual violence movement. All men are not rapists. All fraternity brothers are not rapists. Men are crucial students to mobilize in the fight against sexual violence on college campuses.
This is why I was so impressed and pleased to read about Greek life at Tufts University. The ATO president, Matthew Sanda, acknowledged that fraternity houses have a stigma against them as locations where sexual assaults often occur. Instead of becoming defensive by this claim, the fraternities and sororities at Tufts University accepted that the rates of sexual assault in Greek houses are hard to dispute. As a result, they took a stand against sexual violence. The fraternities and sororities started a poster series that said “Not in our house.” Additionally, ATO has indicated philanthropic projects done by the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. They have established this partnership in order to further reduce the stigma associated with Greek houses. Sororities have also played an important role. Chi Omega partnered with Panhellenic Council to sponsor Take Back the Night, a vigil that is intended to empower and support survivors to come forward and tell their story. Students take back the night of their assault and are given their voice, confidence, and power back.
It is so important that fraternity brothers and sorority sisters become the face of allies combating sexual violence. The Greek life community is tight-knit and friendships are formed across memberships. If individual fraternities and sororities are signing up to be allies, they are more likely to hold their fellow Greek life members accountable if and when sexual assaults do occur within Greek housing or perpetrated by a fraternity brother or sorority sister — YES, women can be perpetrators, too! Having the Greek life community discussing topics of sexual violence is just another avenue for education and awareness raising for college campuses. Kudos to you, Tufts!
Just wanted to share that the students of Tufts’ SAFER just had a victory! The complete new sexual assault policy has been made. You can check out their site here. It’s weird to think just two years ago I was being trained among some of these activists and they’ve done such a great job to create progress. I clearly have some personal investment since some of my friends and I helped jumpstart the movement for change. I wish I was able to support the students for longer, but they’re clearly doing a great job.
While it is great there is a new policy, I think this is a great example of how even though an administration may be willing to provide change there can always be improvement. It takes a long time to work towards a better sexual assault policy that students can feel like their rights are protected.
One thing I noticed that made me a bit uneasy is that they have a new confidentiality section.
Any information or written material related to a disciplinary case must be treated as confidential. Disclosure of such information to anyone other than the Dean or the fact-finder, legal counsel, support person or confidential counselor is strictly prohibited and may subject the person responsible for the disclosure to disciplinary action. Individuals with whom a student has shared disciplinary case materials are prohibited from disclosing them to others without the permission
of the Dean of Students or the Judicial Affairs Officer, and any disclosure by such individuals may subject the student who disclosed to them to disciplinary action.
A big part of the Center for Public Integrity’s investigative findings that schools have been big on gag orders. While they said that the outcome of the cause will/can be shared with the community, I can see the potential for this confidentiality clause to go wrong. What if the school handled the case improperly? It would be a huge conflict of interest to ask the Dean or Officer for permission to share how *they* messed up in address their rape and is showing the case information to another person, group, organization, etc. to see what those very people did wrong while doing their job.
However, it’s great to know that the SAFER group on campus are in touch with the administration about further improvements. The students have hit the ground running as soon as the semester has started to look over the policy and identify what they would like to see changed. I hope that progress towards the policy they need and deserve continues to go quickly!
If you have been following our blog, you may have noticed the theme of “intersectionality” popping up regularly. When I first learned about the existence and meaning of this word earlier this year, I thought I clearly understood what it meant. However, it was not until recently until I truly realized the meaning and importance of the word. It was easy for me to grasp how race and class are almost always inextricably linked, but it look a little extra thinking to realize how sexism, ableism, and other forms of discrimination often work together.
Today on Womanist-Musings there is a guest post that originally appeared on the Tufts Survivors of Sexual Violence site. I think it can be very useful for putting intersectionality into perspective and easier to comprehend. A survivor who is not only a woman, but of colour, first-generation American, and in a socioeconomic class that provided little power or resources. All of these identities caused multiple oppressions to work simultaneously.
Can all of this be immediately and easily eliminated? No; but if you look at “What Makes A Better Sexual Assault Policy?” it is very feasible to have a policy that can fight the reinforcement of oppressions. Intersectionality is brought up in not only one, but two sections:
- Fairness: All services should be available to students regardless of gender, ethnic background, income, disability, identity, or sexual orientation. All disciplinary procedures should be fair and impartial.
- Prevention and Education: Policies should include meaningful efforts at education of students in the dynamics of sexual assault, the effects it has on survivors, and the many factors that allow it to continue. They should focus on preventing violence by perpetrators and engaging the whole school community in a stand against sexual violence. They should not blame victims, focus on women’s behavior, or repeat rape myths. These efforts should challenge sexism, homophobia, racism and other oppressions rather than reinforcing or ignoring them.
Part of being an anti-violence activist is not only including a diverse group of people in your movement, but also constantly trying to understand the discriminations that your fellow activists may have to face.
Students at Tufts are angry, and they need to talk.
From an op-ed about the Tufts sexual assault procedures by the “Gender Blenders,” a student group:
The Gender Blenders saw the Tufts production of The Vagina Monologues on February 27th. One monologue that resonated with us was entitled “Angry Vagina.” Well, our vaginas are angry too. Our vaginas are harassed, threatened, and exploited. And our vaginas are pissed off that there isn’t more vagina love to go around at Tufts…
…Many people do not know about Tufts’ sexual assault disciplinary procedures. Sexual assault cases are generally handled the same way as other violations, such as academic dishonesty and robbery. By treating cases of sexual assault like these other misconducts, Tufts is undermining the severity and legitimacy of sexual assault as an act of violence. This shows how ignorant the administration is about the issue of sexual assault on campus, which leads to its poor handling of sexual assault cases…
…Not only have these policies changed for the worse, but the pamphlets on related issues including stalking and relationship violence were also altered. The administration made sure to throw away all the old materials for fear of a student finding and using the old resources. What is the administration trying to hide? Why did they change the policies and pamphlets? Why does the administration care more about its reputation than the safety and well-being of its students? Since sexual violence is the most common and most underreported crime on college campuses, one would think that Tufts would want to stand out as an institution that takes action against sexual assault. Instead, they have taken advantage of the social stigmas against sexual assault survivors to maintain the status quo and the silence surrounding sexual violence.
I love the Gender Blenders use of media in this op-ed. What a great way to get the word out, and to bring this issue to a broader audience at Tufts. It sounds like Tufts has all the makings of a really fun student revolt brewing. Here’s hoping!