Content note: This blog post and links within contain discussions of sexual violence which may be triggering to survivors.
Our college campuses are not safe spaces. Sexual violence is endemic, with estimates of one in four college women experiencing a sexual assault during their time on campus. Disclosures by survivors of sexual violence to universities are often met with a culture of indifference, victim blaming, and even hostility. Survivors of color often experience racism when confronting university administrations, and members of the queer and trans* communities often have to deal with heterosexism and cissexism/transphobia. Male survivors often face skepticism. When disclosures of sexual violence are handled poorly, the results can have a disastrous effect on survivors (see the op/ed Dear Harvard: You Win).
At the June AAS meeting in Boston, the Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (CSWA) is hosting a town hall on “Addressing Sexual Violence on College Campuses” (Tuesday, June 3, 12:45 pm in Staffordshire, Westin Copley Place). This town hall will be led by representatives from the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC) who will discuss how community awareness is instrumental in dismantling campus rape culture at our colleges and universities. They will counter harmful myths about sexual violence and discuss research on repeat perpetration and acquaintance rape.
There are currently fifty-five institutions with open Title IX investigations regarding mishandling sexual violence and harassment complaints. We therefore especially encourage department chairs, faculty, and university administrators to attend this important session. However, this work does not stop here. Many organizations worldwide provide education about how to address sexual violence on our campuses and in our communities. Some trainings may even be offered by your institution. If you are located near Boston, BARCC offers a variety of trainings that can be held at colleges and universities. They have made available a useful guide for prevention of sexual violence on campus and on how to respond to disclosures of sexual assault. Another local group, The Network/La Red, provides community education and trainings to specifically address LGBTQ* partner abuse. Nationwide organizations such as SCESA and INCITE! are working to end sexual violence against women, gender non-conforming, and trans* people of color.
Please join us at the CSWA town hall on June 3. We have much work ahead of us to make our campuses safer spaces.