Town Hall addresses sexual violence on campus

Tess Riley, News Editor [email protected]

The Tulane community held an open town hall on Monday about strategies to help end sexual violence and gender-based discrimination on campus.

Sponsored by the Undergraduate Student Government, this event was an opportunity for education on the issue of sexual assault on campus and across the country. It also served as a forum for students to ask questions and voice concerns.

“[Sexual assult] is an issue that USG is fighting for because it is our duty to represent the student body with their safety, health and well-being at the forefront of everything that we do,” sophomore USG Senator Caroline Scott said.

The event featured a panel including representatives from the Tulane University Police Department, Sexual Aggression Peer Hotline and Education, the Student Health Advisory Council, Case Management and Victim Support Services, Title IX and Campus Health.

USG President Autumn Gibbons, was one of the first to address the crowd. She referred to students, particularly the freshmen in the room, as the “movers and shakers” who have the power to end sexual violence on Tulane’s campus.

“All of you want a forum, you want a way to speak to your administrators and ask for change…you’re teaching us, you’re teaching your fellow students, that your voice needs to be heard,” Gibbons said.

Title IX Coordinator Meredith Smith presented a slideshow of data regarding sexual assault cases reported at Tulane. Next semester, the Sexual Conduct Campus Climate Survey will be sent to students via email. This survey will help Smith and other administrators to better understand the experiences that the student body has had with sexual harassment and violence. This survey will assist in creating education and prevention programs that are unique to Tulane.

“I have been overwhelmed at how many students want to get involved in Title IX work, and next semester, I will be creating a student advisory board for Title IX,” Smith said.

TUPD representative Jarrod Sullivan spoke as a panelist to share the police’s role in the investigative process after reports were made.

According to TUPD Superintendent Jon Barnwell, officers receive specialized training that helps them investigate in an effective and thorough manner, while also working closely with Victim Support Services to ensure that investigations yield the most relevant information while not re-traumatizing victims or discouraging further reporting.

“Good police work that brings sexual offenders to justice can help reduce the overall number of such crimes, especially since most perpetrators of these crimes are serial offenders,” Barnwell said.

According to Scott, one of the biggest obstacles surrounding reporting assault involves not knowing about the resources available or not knowing how to access these resources.

Tulane’s Title IX website lists a comprehensive list of victim support services. These services include theWELL, Counseling and Psychological Services, The Office for Institutional Equity, the SAPHE Hotline and the Office of Case Management and Victim Support Services, among others.

These resources can help survivors make informed decisions as to how to move forward in their healing process, assist with legal and medical aid or provide survivors with someone to talk to.

Another deterrent to victims reporting their assault is the fear of stigma, victim blaming and not being believed.

“As a community, we must create a climate where survivors are believed and supported, rather than one where survivors feel like they will lose friendships and community support if they make decisions for their personal safety,” Scott said.

People of color, those who identify as LGBTQ+ and individuals with disabilities face higher rates of sexual violence, yet report these incidences at significantly lower rates. The Office of Multicultural Affairs helps to create an intersectional approach to support services that take these factors into account and their layered implications for survivors, who may have been targeted due to their race, gender identity or sexual orientation.

While eradicating sexual violence involves the cooperation of everyone on campus, students and administrators alike, USG senator and SAPHE member, junior Josh Rosenbaum, highlighted the importance of the role of men at Tulane.

“Men have a crucial role in disrupting and deconstructing rape culture on our campus,” Rosenbaum said. “The first step, I believe, is rejecting within ourselves toxic and violent forms of masculinity…If we are ever to see an end to the epidemic of sexual violence, it will need to come alongside men calling out other men for unacceptable, destructive behavior.”

Supporting survivors and ending sexual assault needs to happen on an individual, cultural and systemic level, according to Rosenbaum. Students must use their voices to ensure that the administration is responsive and devote useful resources to ending sexual violence.

“While there is no doubt that we have made great strides, there is more work to do,” Vice President for Student Affairs Dusty Porter said. “We will continue to move forward as a university, a city and a nation in addressing sexual violence.”

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