Haverford College is a small liberal arts college that prides itself on its community, Quaker roots, and commitment to social justice. Upon matriculation in 2008, however, I was dismayed by what I perceived to be a lack of resources for survivors of sexual assault* on campus as well as the broader absence of conversation about these issues. In the winter of 2009, two other Haverford women and I started a student-run support group called Survivors of Assault and Rape (SOAR). Since then, a small group of committed Haverford students has embarked on a quest to instigate rape and sexual assault policy reform. Although we have faced frustrating bureaucratic barriers, what has at times been perceived as resistance and a lack of support on the part of the campus administration, Haverford has substantially altered its rape and sexual assault policies in the last three years. This paper is the continuation of a number of pieces that I have written about rape and sexual assault in colleges (see “Consent is Sexy at Haverford? Not Yet”). I hope that this paper may serve as a resource for other college students hoping to change the rape and sexual assault policies on their campuses.
I’d been working on another paper for this web event, one linking human rights abuses to sexual assault, and examining the relevance of transitional justice mechanisms. After the past three days, however, I feel compelled to share some of what’s been going on in my quest to build “right relationships” between people – students, administrators, faculty, and staff – on Haverford’s campus.
The Context: Rape and Sexual Assault at Haverford College
Haverford is mandated by the Clery Act to report crime statistics, including sex offenses. According to Haverford College’s 2011 Security & Fire Safety Report, there were reported 4 forcible sex offenses in 2008, 7 forcible sex offenses in 2009, and 8 forcible sex offenses in 2010. The same report listed 0 non-forcible sex offenses for the same years (but does not define how it distinguishes between forcible and non-forcible sex offenses).
(Source: 2011 Fire & Security Safety Report, Haverford College, 2011. Page 6.)
The Security Report goes on to acknowledge, “According to the U.S. Department of Justice, crimes of sexual assault are among the most underreported of all crimes. This is especially true on college and university campuses.” It continues, “Any reported rape or sexual assault will be treated confidentially with concern and sensitivity…All victims of campus crime are strongly encouraged to report the incident.”
I wasn't able to be in class last Tuesday, which I was especially disappointed about after our class on 11/15. I've read the class talking notes and people's blog posts, and there are a couple people I want to respond to, and a couple points I want to make in general.
I left class two weeks ago feeling totally drained - not only because of the things we'd talked about, many of which touch me deeply - rape&sexual assault, Ensler's Huffington Post piece, activism - but also because I felt totally unprepared to be talking about such things so publicly, and also, to be honest, pretty offended. I'm not trying to speak for others here, but I thought that it was grossly inappropriate to take a student's quote from this website and have them read it aloud in class without any warning. As some students (and Kaye) have already pointed out, to say something out loud, in public, is completely different from writing it (semi-anonymously?) online. I felt that in some ways, a community was created as a result - but I also think that it was very insensitive. Kaye acknowledged that if she and Anne had warned us beforehand that we would be discussing rape&sexual assault, people may not have shown up, or had their guard up. It doesn't matter. That's our right.
I was fascinated by the concept of “cryptic choice” introduced in the video “Nature: What Females Want…and What Males Will Do.” Female red-sided garter snakes are rendered immobile by males competing to inseminate her. They have, however, evolved a means of defense against forced copulation: they can choose which of the snake’s sperm will fertilize their eggs. Another example of “cryptic choice” is seen in ducks’ reproductive systems: they twist opposite ways to make reproduction more difficult. A third of ducks’ copulations are forced, but they produce only 3% of the young. Explained the narrator, “Evolution has given females the edge.” Last week, my psychology-major roommate sent me an article called “Women’s Avoidance of Rape” which, like the video, acknowledged that “Sexual coercion and rape have been documented in many different species.”