By D. Bowen /// Opinion Editor
With ASLC President Lincoln Boyd’s (’11) recent email and The Pioneer Log’s Editorial about the “It’s On Us” campaign, sexual assault awareness and policy has been dominating a lot of on-campus discussions. It is exciting to see Lewis & Clark students engaged in this matter, but discussing specific LC policy issues on campus is key to creating productive conversations about ways we can change student experiences reporting sexual assault on campus.
A pervasive issue in our campus sexual misconduct reporting process is that most staff, even those who are obligated by contract to report any knowledge of sexual misconduct, are unfamiliar with the specifics of the policy. Furthermore, many staff members lack thorough training in this area. In order to provide a supportive system for reporting sexual assault, LC needs more and better-trained responders and advocates.
Also, the process for reporting sexual misconduct on campus is extremely complex. During the early stages of reporting, it is often up to the survivor to figure out not only with which people they need to speak, but also when, where and in what order. Furthermore, it is up to the survivor to constantly email different offices and people in order to set up appointments to push through the report. This is not only extremely stressful for survivors of sexual assault, but dissuades some from reporting at all.
While the entire sexual misconduct policy on campus needs to be edited, and in large part, redone, there are a few temporary solutions to the problems on hand.
First, survivors who decide to report sexual misconduct should be assigned an advocate who is able to guide them throughout the process. LC does have staff members who act in this role, but often they do so on the side of other demanding jobs and are thus unable to give survivors the attention that they need and deserve.
Second, all students can learn more about how to support friends who have experienced sexual assault. Sexual Assault Response Advocacy training doesn’t occur again until next semester, but I encourage all LC students to attend. This training is not only useful to hold office hours in the Feminist Student Union or as a supplement to a leadership position in a student organization; it also provides skills and tools which every student can use to support a peer who is dealing with sexual assault.
If you are looking for better skills to support sexual assault survivors, there are a few, basic things you should know. First, sexual assault is never a survivor’s fault. Regardless of any substance that may have been involved in the incident, people should be able to drink or engage in any substance-related behavior without the consequence of sexual assault. It is always the decision of the perpetrator to assault someone; absolutely no behavior on behalf of the survivor is deserving of sexual assault as a result. Second, don’t push a survivor to make a decision that they’re not ready to make. As peer advocates, it is our responsibility to provide a survivor with resources in order to provide them with options. It is not our duty to pressure a survivor into a specific course of action (reporting, talking to a Resident Advisor, etc.) The survivor knows what they need, and it is crucial that they are given maximum agency in deciding how to proceed after sexual assault.
While these individual behaviors will help create a healthier dialogue concerning sexual assault at LC, the problems are larger than individuals. Our sexual misconduct policy is full of holes and vague language that dissuades survivors from reporting and often engages them in a long and disappointing process if they do choose to report.
Join ASLC and the FSU in their recent conversations on this topic, and contribute in any way that you can. If you are willing to add personal testimony to these discussions, you can email the FSU at email@example.com.