Humboldt State Responds to Sexual Harassment and Violence On Campus

February 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

Earlier this evening, Humboldt State University’s Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs sent a bulk email to all staff, faculty, and students regarding the University’s Response to Reports of Sexual Harassment and Violence on campus. Unlike the patronizing, regressive emails I had grown accustomed to at the University of Oregon, this email avoided the use of victim blaming language or advice. You know the kind, like “ladies, don’t walk anywhere alone” or “ladies, use the buddy system” or “ladies, don’t take drinks from strangers” or “ladies, don’t get drunk” or “ladies, try not to drink at all,” all of which are just a half-step from the imperative to avoid wearing short skirts, or leaving the house.

In contrast, the HSU email provided rape crisis contact information with notes on mandated reporting requirements, a bulleted list explaining what these policies meant for students, and links to other campus resources. “HSU’s goals in implementing these CSU policies are to link survivors of sexual violence with support,” it explained, “and to hold accountable those who choose to harm others.”

The most amazing thing about this email was its link to HSU’s Stop Rape initiative, which was even more surprising than the email itself. And I mean this in the best possible way. Quote:

This website is the product of HSU’s Sexual Assault Prevention Committee (SAPC), which is comprised of faculty, staff, students, law enforcement, and community partners, including advocates from the North Coast Rape Crisis Team. The SAPC is working toward eliminating rape and all forms of sexualized violence. This website works within a survivor-centered framework in order to prioritize the healing and safety of the survivor.

Sexual violence is any physically or emotionally coercive sexual contact, including, but not limited to rape, sexual battery, unwanted touching, verbal harassment, and stalking. Such violence can happen to anyone. Most violence is perpetrated by someone the survivor knows. Perpetrators, not survivors, are responsible for sexual assaults, and only a potential perpetrator can prevent a sexual assault.

We use the word survivor, rather than victim, in order to recognize the agency and strength of all people who experience sexual violence. We support the right of survivors to define their own needs; there is no one right way to heal from sexual trauma.

Sexualized violence works in conjunction with sexism, racism, classism, ableism, transphobia, homophobia and xenophobia: efforts to end sexualized violence must be grounded in an anti-oppression framework.

This is the only way to talk about sexual violence. I immediately forwarded the message and links to my former PhD advisor Carol Stabile, who –with uncanny timing– responded with an emphatic “Wow” and link to an article she just published with Ms. Magazine on this precise subject.

As is always the case with these sorts of conversations, it is so important that they are happening, and so disheartening that they are necessary. It’s hard to know what else to say, really, other than…good. It’s a start.


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