Updates On Amherst Sexual Assault Op-Ed Response
A little over a week after Angie Epifano’s op-ed was published in The Amherst Student, Bloomberg took notice. Then The New York Times. As we applauded Angie’s story spreading to major media outlets, HuffPost College mentioned In The ‘Cac and quoted from #ItHappensHere.
There was no going back to the silence.
In an opinion piece, also from HuffPost College, the Founder and President of Futures Without Violence–an organization which combats violence directed at women–writes, “Angie’s story at Amherst has catalyzed a national dialogue about the issue of sexual violence on college campuses. I hope that administrators across the country take note and reevaluate their policies toward abuse. In the meantime, I want to empower students to look out for one another, challenge ineffective policies, and play an active role in preventing senseless violence on campus.”
We’d like to draw your attention to Amherst’s newly established Sexual Respect website–a collection of resources, including a checklist detailing steps taken to revise their sexual assault policy as well as future measures. Here is the state of the checklist:
AMHERST COLLEGE ACTION CHECKLIST CONCERNING SEXUAL RESPECT
Brought in counselors from Harvard’s McLean Center who are experts in the fields of sexual misconduct and assault policy to hold several walk-in counseling sessions with students and other members of the campus community.
Hired an independent and nationally recognized expert, Gina Maisto Smith, a partner at Ballard Spahr LLP, to review the college’s Title IX and sexual misconduct policies and practices and provide recommendations. This review is ongoing.
Launched this comprehensive new Sexual Respect website that consolidates resources on sexual respect, including sexual misconduct and sexual violence in one area. It has an action checklist and an online suggestion box.
Authorized the establishment of an anonymous and confidential hotline service.
Launched an internal investigation and review of the response to the first-person account in The Amherst Student, and a comprehensive review of the application of policies and procedures.
Accelerated efforts to ensure that the entire college community is educated about law, policy and appropriate responses to survivors of incidents of sexual misconduct and assault and to ensure that staff, faculty and students are aware of how to protect survivors of sexual assault from experiences that trigger post-traumatic reactions.
Improved the disciplinary process, based on student feedback. For example, alternative testimony options are available for Committee on Discipline hearings, such as Skype, providing students with full access to the hearing process. Also, complainant and respondent have the option of submitting Impact Statements to be considered by the Committee while determining sanctions.
Solicited input from faculty, staff, alumni and students by planning and holding open meetings and gatherings of specific constituencies and through suggestions contributed via email and the Web.
Added student representation on the Title IX Committee and the Sexual Respect Task Force.
Ongoing outreach to identified and affected students as well as the entire student body.
Outreach to local community partners for support.
Internal investigation and review of the response to the first-person account of sexual assault that appeared in The Amherst Student.
In future sexual misconduct cases, a trained investigator will meet with the complainant, respondent, and relevant witnesses; gather evidence; and prepare a report for distribution to the two parties and the Committee. Using an investigator permits a more complete investigation and lessens the burden on the complainant and the respondent in preparing their respective cases.
Appointment of an experienced Title IX Coordinator and a Title IX support person.
Adding student support in critical areas, such as counseling, to improve support for survivors of sexual assault.
Providing additional support and services during upcoming breaks, such as Thanksgiving.
Establishing a special committee to consider all recommendations for enhancing sexual respect, together with other ideas proposed by faculty, students, administration, staff and trustees.
Adding student representation to the Sexual Respect Task Force and Title IX working group.
Identifying space for a gender resource center.
Striving every day to build community and consensus among all campus constituents.
Presenting updates to parents and alumni.
We’d also like to highlight effective education as a crucial component of sexual assault prevention.
In a Cornell Daily Sun editorial, the authors assert that “the call for sexual violence education for all University students is a necessary, immediately actionable project,” and they urge their administration to “ research curriculum from other Universities and companies and implement the program as soon as next semester.”
In The ‘Cac, a strong sexual violence education tool already exists in the form of a production called ‘Speak About It,’ created at Bowdoin and produced as a travelling show by alum Shana Natelson ’10. ’Speak About It’ has been travelling for two years, and reached almost 5,000 students. Students at Bates, Colby, Williams, and Hamilton may recall seeing the performance on their campus, and the show has been a fixture at Bowdoin’s freshmen orientation since 2009.
Recent graduates perform monologues about college sex, ranging from the humorous to the sobering. The show emphasizes consent throughout, as the key to any healthy sexual encounter.
In an e-mail to In The ‘Cac, Natelson writes, “I want to have our performance at all of the NESCAC schools, especially given the recent dialogues around sexual assault. We certainly don’t have all the answers, but we might have one or two.”
If you’re interested in bringing ‘Speak About It’ to your campus, e-mail Shana at firstname.lastname@example.org.