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"I spoke out to put a face to the issue for the millions of women, men and children who suffer in silence and to say that you are not alone. Help is available." ~ Ayanna Pressley, Boston City Councilor (Photo by Christopher Mason)

ADVOCATES APPLAUD CREATION OF HE WHITE HOUSE TASK FORCE ON CAMPUS SEXUAL VIOLENCE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                                                 For contacts see below
January 31, 2014              

ADVOCATES APPLAUD CREATION OF HE WHITE HOUSE TASK FORCE ON CAMPUS SEXUAL VIOLENCE

On January 22, 2014, President Obama signed an historic Presidential memorandum establishing the White House Task Force on Protecting Students from Sexual Assault.  Over the next 90 days this inter-agency group will sift through the findings in the White House report, Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action, and develop recommendations to address this scourge on campuses throughout the nation. 

Debra J. Robbin, Interim Executive Director of Jane Doe Inc., said, “As they proceed, we offer these insights based on decades of activism and leadership in the anti-sexual violence movement.  We couldn’t agree more with Vice President Biden who said: ‘Freedom from sexual assault is a basic human right.’” 

Sexual violence undermines the safety, health, dignity, and opportunities of hundreds of thousands of survivors each year.  Advocates note that achieving this right is curtailed because of continued misconceptions about sexual violence and the abuse of power. While cultural norms around understanding the dynamics of domestic violence have improved in recent decades, the dominant culture still holds on to many victim blaming false hoods about sexual violence.

Without freedom from sexual assault and a climate of fear of sexual violence, a student’s ability to perform academically or engage socially can unravel.  In fact, many survivors who experience sexual assault while in college experience multiple impacts as a result of the violence including: dropping out of classes; moving in order to change residence halls, having difficulty paying attention in class (Wider Opportunities for Women: Population Policy Series, 2013)

Isa Woldeguiorguis, Executive Director of the Center for Hope and Healing in Lowell, pointed out, “Along with having a lifelong emotional impact, sexual assault causes long term economic stability to be destroyed if a student has to leave school and does not achieve a necessary degree to advance professionally or is physically or emotionally unable to maintain stable employment.  Every parent who sends their child off to college wants them to eventually be self-sufficient, not be forced to drop out or give up because of a sexual assault.  We want what parents want, what communities want, and what colleges want – safety for all students and an environment free from sexual violence.”

Rape crisis centers play a central role in supporting and collaborating with survivors whose experience and activism form the bedrock of this movement.  Through their clients and community work, rape crisis centers have long recognized the high prevalence of sexual violence on college campuses. Working in local communities with survivors, students, and campus administrators to prevent and respond to sexual violence, rape crisis centers have provided critical prevention education to students, trained student conduct professionals, and board members on working with survivors; assisted in protocol development to ensure a coordinated and compassionate response to survivors.

As the associate director of a rape crisis center housed on a university campus, Becky Lockwood of the Center for Women and Community at UMass Amherst, noted, “Sexual Violence on college campuses does not happen in a vacuum.  Dominant cultural norms that conflate sex with violence, that condone the sexual objectification of women, and that commodify sexual interactions are just as prevalent on campuses as in our broader society.”

Similarly, one of the most common misconceptions about the cause of sexual violence is the role of alcohol and other substances, especially on college campuses.  Alcohol does not cause sexual violence - it neither justifies an assault on a victim/survivor nor excuses an assault by a perpetrator.   Quite the opposite has been revealed in studies that document how many perpetrators of sexual violence use alcohol intentionally and purposefully to incapacitate their victims and to justify their own violence (Abbey, Antonia, 2007)

Lockwood said, “The relationship between alcohol and sexual violence on college campuses  is complex and related to societal expectations about alcohol consumption and women’s sexuality; stereotypes about women’s use of alcohol; and the desensitization to violence that occurs in the context of alcohol use.  These cultural and social norms create a climate ripe for sexual violence perpetration and victimization.”

Any response to sexual violence on campuses must be clear that students are put at risk when the blame is shifted from the perpetrator to the victim and when perpetrators are not held accountable by their peers, their colleges and the community.  The traditional response to sexual assault has focused on the potential victim’s behavior.  Effective prevention strategies shift this paradigm and instead focus on preventing perpetration by reducing the individual and societal risk factors that condone and permit a person to commit sexual violence in the first place.

Advocates also believe that change and prevention are possible and, as President Obama stated, this will require “a shift in our attitudes about how we think about sexual violence, and how much we value the lives and dignity of our wives and sisters and daughters and sons.”  Vice President Biden added an important ingredient when he spoke about the crucial role that men have to play here in speaking out, taking responsibility, and intervening. These values are at the heart of Jane Doe Inc.’s Massachusetts White Ribbon Day Campaign.

Robbin added, “We must work with campuses much as we have engaged the military to address the culture of sexual assault within its ranks and the civil and criminal justice systems to develop the tools and resources to hold offenders accountable.  To be truly successful, we must change the broader culture wherein violence lies.  We applaud President Obama and Vice President Biden for setting an example as men in leadership to play an active role in ending sexual and domestic violence.”

For more information or to schedule an interview please contact:

Toni Troop, Jane Doe Inc.
617-557-1807, ttroop@janedoe.org

Becky Lockwood, Center for Women & Community                                                                                                  413-545-0883, rlockwood@umass.edu                                                                                                                    

 

Isa Woldeguiorguis
978-452-7721, isa@centerforhopehealing.org

 

GET THE FACTS:

SEXUAL VIOLENCE ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES

 

·        The 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) reported that approximately 80% of female victims experienced their first rape before the age of 25.

·        The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported in the 2008 National Crime Victimization Survey that more than 75% of the women who reported a rape were under 25 years old at the time of their assault; more than 25% of the victims of reported rapes are between 18 and 24 years old.  A BJS study in 2000 estimated that the percentage of completed or attempted rape victimization among women in higher educational institutions may be between 20% and 25% over the course of a college career.

·        Stalking is another form of victimization common to college women. The NIJ report estimates that 13% of college women are victims of a stalking incident at least once during their college years. A Justice Department report suggests that just 17% of college women who were stalked reported it to police.

·        Survivors of sexual assault or stalking at school are more likely to drop out than students who are not victimized. Adolescent Survivors and Economic Security, Wider Opportunities for Women: Population Policy Series (2013).

·        Survivors of sexual violence experience multiple impacts as a result of the violence including: dropping out of classes; moving in order to change residence halls, having difficulty paying attention in class. Adolescent Survivors and Economic Security, Wider Opportunities for Women: Population Policy Series (2013).

·        Research shows that sexual harassment is prevalent and vastly underreported in high school and middle school- 48 % of students surveyed reported experiencing sexual harassment with only 9% reporting the harassment to a school official.  Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School, Hill, C. & Kearl, H. (2011) American Association of University Women

·        Research shows that the majority of victims of sexual violence are children & adolescents – including young adults- traditionally aged college students. Understanding Sexual Victimization, MA Executive Office of Public Safety (2006); Female Victims of Sexual Violence, 1994-2010. Bureau of Justice Statistics (2013)

·        Rape crisis centers have long recognized the high prevalence of sexual violence on college campuses (Sexual Assault on Campus: A Frustrating Search for Justice,Center for Public Integrity (2010);  Sexual Assault on Campus: What Colleges and Universities Are Doing About It, Office of Justice Programs (2005)).

·        The relationship between alcohol and sexual violence on college campuses  is complex and related to societal expectations about alcohol consumption and women’s sexuality; stereotypes about women’s use of alcohol; and the desensitization to violence that occurs in the context of alcohol use.  Many perpetrators of sexual violence use alcohol intentionally and purposefully to incapacitate their victims and to justify their own violence.  Alcohol and Sexual Violence Perpetration, Antonia Abbey (2008).  A Comparison of Men Who Committed Different Types of Sexual Assault, Abbey, Antonia (2007).

 

Data compiled by Jane Doe Inc.
January 2014

 

 

 

 


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