Eye on Safety
Student Life is gearing up to create a safer campus for the 2014 fall semester.
Last April, in a report prepared by the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault, a troubling mosaic was pieced together with a variety of findings gathered from college campuses nation-wide.
These include the following:
- Nearly 1 in 5 women—or nearly 22 million—have been raped in their lifetimes.
- 1 in 71 men—or almost 1.6 million—have been raped during their lives.
- Women of all races are targeted.
- Most victims know their assailants.
- Repeat victimization is common.
In response, the report includes a variety of recommendations for policy changes that colleges, Santa Fe University of Art and Design (SFUAD) among them, must adopt to become more in tune with the intent of Title IX, which governs gender equality in education.
Policy changes for the 2014 fall semester will include more comprehensive reporting procedures related to sexual assault, which will provide a wider range of support staff for students.
Additionally, a Title IX advisor, Becky Connelly, will be on campus to ensure policies are properly implemented, and to provide grievance counseling so students can report violations of their civil rights.
Finally, the school is introducing “Think About It,” an interactive multimedia educational data-gathering tool that guides students through topics such as alcohol and drug awareness, sexual harassment, sexual assault, what it means to give consent, what isn’t considered consent, and the obligations of bystanders who witness assault. “Think About It” will collect data while it educates students so lawmakers can make policies to better suited to student needs.
There has only been one sexual assault reported at SFUAD since 2010. But just because others haven’t been reported, Student Life Senior Director Laura Nunnelly says, doesn’t mean they didn’t happen. She says potential low reporting could be due to the lack of education and resources available to the students, and hopes the new Title IX programs will address those shortfalls.
But a lack of education and resources is only part of the problem.
“Victims are not comfortable talking to administration to file a report with the school, or are uncomfortable with filing a police report,” says KT, a SFUAD junior. This discomfort, she says, is part of a pervasive and immobilizing culture of “victim-blaming.” Having been sexually assaulted herself, KT describes “victim-blaming” as “anything that puts the responsibility [of sexual assault] on the victim,” and that deemphasizes the responsibility of the attacker. KT believes misperceptions sexual assault, and its victims, are the primary barriers in reporting instances of sexual assault.
Indeed, among the Task Force recommendations is a call for a change in cultural perception. “Sexual assault [is] not a misunderstanding, not a private matter, not anyone’s right or any woman’s fault…it is a crime,” the report says.
Nunnelly hopes the new Title IX programs will allow the students “to feel more comfortable,” and report instances of sexual assault. Although KT had many criticisms for Think About It regarding its antiquated notions of gender and ill-contrived scenarios, “Overall the curriculum was very non-victim shaming/blaming,” she says, “which is excellent.”