Everyone on Colby’s campus has gone through or will go through Sexual Violence Prevention (SVP) training. SVP is a program lead by the Title IX Department and is geared towards educating first-year students on what sexual violence is, how it looks, how to spot it, and how to avoid harming one’s peers. SVP leaders are students who were educated on campus resources pertaining to sexual violence, the Title IX reporting process, and support for students in need. Emma Freund `23 spoke with The Colby Echo about her reasons for joining SVP leadership and changing the way we as a community look at sexual violence.
“I chose to be an SVP leader because I grew up fearing sexual assault,” she explains. “I was sort of raised to believe that appearing tempting in any way externally invited trouble… I always just felt like I was raised like I was going to be a victim, and joining SVP really helped me break out of that narrative.”
Freund speaks to an experience that many women endure growing up: being told to “cover up,” to not wear revealing clothing, to not go out too late at night, to carry pepper spray, all to prevent being someone’s victim. These societal norms place the responsibility on women rather than on the culture that enables assault. Not only does it not matter what someone is wearing, but sexual assault is not something only experienced by women. While data on sexual assault is often difficult to ascertain, it is often found that people who identify as queer experience higher rates of sexual assault and harrasment than their non-queer counterparts. In addition, men on college campuses experience high rates of sexual assault despite having low rates of reporting.
SVP is working on changing the narrative and taking preventative action to address rape culture on the College campus. SVP leader Kate Jensen `23 believes that one of the program’s strengths is in helping people recognize various forms of sexual violence that extend past the ones commonly depicted in media.
“There’s a component about — we always talk about this in our sessions — coercion. If someone feels like they have been violated by being coerced to do something, even if there hasn’t been any sexual contact, it’s still a violation of Colby’s policy and you can still go through a process to report that. And a lot of people don’t know that so they just go through and have a bunch of really uncomfortable experiences without realizing that it is a valid experience,” Jensen explains.
While SVP does great work to open up conversations on sexual violence and rape culture, there are many ways that, as a stand-alone program that students are only required to interact with 3 times in their college experience, it falls short.
“I think I’d like SVP to incorporate a bit more discussion about the hookup culture here at Colby and the ways in which social pressure and peer pressure act as kinds of coercion,” says Freund.
Keeping these conversations going are crucial so that students learn this behavior stems from a culture to which we all could contribute, whether consciously or not.
“It’s really important that we understand that although some people are disproportionately affected by sexual violence and sexual assault the reason [for that] is because we do not take it on as a community responsibility to fix it,” Freund says.
When it comes to asking what SVP can do better, Jensen agrees that there is no tangible solution because of this program’s limitations.
“I feel like [the school] needs to involve more… they have a solution based thing where there’s a goal of trying to get accommodations or trying to get something that restricts someone from going into a certain living space or something like that. It’s very goal oriented but I feel like we need to talk more about the mental health side of this,” she says.
A new club was registered on campus this year called the Survivor Support Alliance (SSA). It is a student-run advocacy group for survivors of sexual violence and allies to learn more about how to best support themselves and peers who have been sexually assaulted and how to fight against rape culture as a whole. A group of students will be trained as student advocates to lead this club so that it can be added to the list of on-campus resources in addition to pioneering preventative measures.
One of the best resources on campus is the confidential Title IX advocate, Emily Schusterbauer (firstname.lastname@example.org). She is a confidential advocate which means she is not required to tell anyone. Other administrators and faculty may be mandatory reporters, and what that means is that the Title IX coordinator, Meg Hatch, will be contacted and will reach out to you, but it does not mean you are required to go through any formal or informal process of reporting. SVP leaders themselves are also great resources, and often, students struggling with sexual violence seek them out for advice and guidance. Linked below is the Colby College webpage for Title IX resources.
Stay tuned for an article about the Title IX process at Colby, how it’s been changed countrywide, and what the reporting processes look like.
Title IX Resources at Colby:
Rape Abuse Incest National Network (Hotline & Other Resources): https://www.rainn.org/resources
If you are interested in joining the email list for SSA, contact email@example.com.
~ Mahika Gupta `23