Dear Clayton Spencer, the Administration, faculty, staff and students at Bates College,
I am writing to you all today to sadly inform you that Bates College is not exempt from sexual violence. Some of you may be well aware of this, and others may not know. The unfortunate truth is that we as a community have not done enough to prevent sexual violence on our campus, nor have we given enough support to survivors. This is another reason as to why I am writing you today: there is much work to be done. This problem will not be fixed if we continue to sit back and pretend like this is not a major issue that needs to be addressed on campus. We must take action.
Many students at Bates College believe that the campus does not have a problem with sexual violence. Unfortunately this is not true. According to Security’s daily crime log, there have been 13 reported cases of sexual violence, stalking and harassment on campus since the beginning of the school year. 10 of these were rape cases. Under Security’s Clery Crime Statistics, there were 5 reported rape cases total in 2014, and 7 ‘forcible fondling’ reports. Keep in mind that these are reported cases. This is a clear implication that Bates College has a problem.
Allow me to give you an example. It is 3 in the morning, and a student has just been sexually assaulted. They cannot find their friends, who are either heavily intoxicated or distracted. This student needs to talk to someone and needs support, but they are aware that all of the other confidential resources on campus are asleep or closed for the night. Their options are to call security, an action that would undoubtedly lead to a large, male security guard driving up to the location and filing a report. They could call the SAPARS hotline and talk to a faceless individual who may or may not be able to help. They could potentially speak to a nurse, located in the Health Center, a location far away from most buildings on campus. Or they could do nothing. Many people do not seem to understand that every single action that a survivor of sexual violence takes after being assaulted, whether it be to simply get themselves home or to find help, uses a massive amount of energy and courage that they most likely do not have at that moment. This is why I have been working with a team—a subset of SAVAC, the new club that will be explained below—of dedicated individuals to create a student-led response program. The idea would be to have trained students on call. If someone is raped or sexually assaulted, they call a number and a member of the team would come and help the survivor assess their options, as well as listen to them and help them realize what had happened.
Bates College has a series of very reliable and rapidly growing resources for Sexual Violence survivors, as well as a program in place, Green Dot, that is rapidly gaining ground on campus and beginning to make a difference. Green Dot is the only preventative service Bates College has initiated; it is a 5 hour certification training centered around sexual violence, violence, dating abuse, and stalking. It is effective and something to be proud of, but I am not without my criticisms of this program. During my training, the conversations around sexual violence felt very constrained. There was no openness about what sexual violence looked like or what it felt like. I saw that this course would not have prepared me for the emotional and mental upheaval that being a second hand survivor of sexual violence brings, nor could I ever imagine it helping a first hand survivor handle their situation adequately. I am not saying that Green Dot is useless because I strongly believe that it is one of the best options this school has to end violence in general; I am simply saying that Green Dot is not enough.
The response and support services that Bates College provides for Sexual Violence survivors are, without a doubt, very impressive. The Multifaith Chaplains, the Sexual Assault Victims Advocate, the Title IX officers, the Health Center and the new Sexual Assault support group are all very good at what they do and provide immense support and love to survivors. My only problem with these services is under the subject of time. The majority of hook ups at Bates College occur at night and on weekends, therefore causing a higher risk of sexual assault. According to a National Crime Victimization Survey done in 2010 under the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than half of rapes occur between 6pm and 6am. All of the above resources are not available on weekends, or have limited time slots in which they are able to provide support. I am not blaming these services for being unavailable, but rather pushing Bates College to realize that there is a severe necessity in providing support to survivors when they need it most, which can happen in all hours of the day.
Where do we go from here? There is a common misconception in the United States that doing one thing will make a difference. A college or university implementing one program is going to do very little to solve the problem of sexual violence on campuses. In order to reduce the number of sexual violence cases, reported and unreported on campus, we need to create a safe, supportive atmosphere provided by the administration and students. We must increase the conversation on campus. This means having monthly discussions, presentations, and events on sexual violence, safe sex, and gender roles. We need to begin periodical meetings that include athletic coaches and captains, administration, and students from various different clubs. This is a campus wide effort and we should not be excluding certain groups from the conversation. There is a new club being formed called SAVAC (Sexual Assault and Violence Advocacy Club), and I encourage all of you to attend. The more people that join, the greater influence the club will have in changing our campus.
It is our job as human beings to stand up for what is right and just. Whether this means being a Green Dot and stopping a potentially dangerous situation, or just raising awareness through conversation, it is important to do what is right. I am not perfect, nor do I know everything about sexual violence, especially on this campus. What I do know is that there is a group of men and women who do not feel like they are being adequately supported by their college and community. I do know that there will be more cases as the months go on that will go unnoticed and untouched. And what I know most is that we, the students, have the ability and power to end these horrific acts of violence and make Bates College a better place. It is our job to do this, to press the administration further, because there is a realistic hope in my mind that one day sexual violence will not be a problem on this campus. To the survivors out there who have not received the help that you need, know that you are not alone. Know that all of Bates College stands with you. We will stand together.
If you are interested in helping Charlotte and the SAVAC out with their activism with Sexual Violence at Bates, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The first meeting will be on Thursday, January 21st at 7:30pm. (SAVAC)