Today’s guest post – written by Beth Montplaisir, Coordinator of Sexual and Relationship Violence Prevention and Response – addresses an important yet uncomfortable topic: sexual assault on college campuses.
As much as I wish it weren’t true, sexual assault happens at Wake Forest. An anti-rape demonstration on campus yesterday underscored that the only way to change the conversation about rape on college campuses – including our own – is to openly talk about sexual violence, to foster a community of respect, to actively listen to survivors, and to compassionately support them as they navigate their options and personal healing processes.
The display was simple and direct in its message. A row of about 20 pillows with messages ranging from “stop the silence” to “alcohol ≠ consent” lined the sidewalk in front of the Pit. Senior Liz Stalfort, organized the event for her Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies honors thesis project to show Wake Foresters the impact of sexual violence on our community. She created spaces online and offline – in keeping with the national “End the Silence” campaign – where survivors could feel safe speaking out about their experiences of sexual violence. The project reminds us of the wide-reaching and long-lasting impact of these crimes, and also highlights the role that we all can play in being a part of the solution by fostering a safe and supportive campus environment for all members of our community.
I appreciate the courage of Liz and the other members of our community who submitted stories or who have joined the conversation on our campus. Thank you for sharing your experiences and thoughts so that we can continue to learn together. You are not alone and sexual violence is never a survivor’s fault. I hear you.
If your student has told you about an experience with sexual assault, first and foremost, believe him or her. Recognize that it takes immense courage to share such a personal and painful experience and appreciate that your loved one has chosen to share this with you. Empower them to make choices – from seemingly small (e.g. giving a hug) to seemingly more significant (e.g. pursuing or not pursuing reporting options). This process slowly returns control to your loved one for their body and their life, which is especially important after an experience during which control was taken from them in a most personally violating way. Encourage your loved one to seek support – from me in the Safe Office or elsewhere – and seek support for yourself as well. We cannot care for others if we are not first caring for ourselves.
There’s an event tomorrow (Wednesday, Dec. 3) that I hope all members of the Wake Forest community will consider attending. At 4 p.m. on the steps of Wait Chapel, Gender Equality Allies, a student-led organization, will host a collaborative photo campaign to send messages of support to survivors of sexual violence as well as express our intolerance to rape culture on college campuses and in society. Please encourage your students to join our office (as well as other students, members of the administration, faculty and staff) in standing in solidarity with survivors of sexual and domestic violence.
If you or your students have any questions about the resources and confidential reporting options the Safe Office offers to survivors, please feel free to contact me.
Beth Montplaisir, MA, LPCA, NCC
Coordinator of Sexual and Relationship Violence Prevention and Response
Help 24/7: 336.758.5285
Additionally, the Office of Campus Life wants parents to be aware of related efforts and resources to support Wake Forest students who have had an experience with sexual assault, including:
· Promotion of healthy relationships and sexual behaviors: It is the intention of Wake Forest University not only to prevent sexual assault but also to create an environment of healthy relationships and caring sexual practices. Faculty, staff, administrators, and students play key roles in the maintenance of a campus culture that reflects civility, respect, and nonviolence. The campus norms must reflect that sexual activity requires affirmative consent without incapacitation from alcohol or other drugs, force, or threats.
· Campus-wide prevention efforts: Our approach to prevention is that we follow evidence-based and trauma-informed best practices. We aim to target our prevention efforts at all levels – from individual skills and relationships (e.g. bystander intervention skills) to larger community levels (e.g. policy and protocols for our campus) – and in all settings. We provide respectful care for survivors, where their individual safety and support needs are addressed as the primary focus. PREPARE (Policy Group on Rape Education, Prevention and Response) is a student-led organization that partners with campus resources to develop and implement programs to educate the Wake Forest community about rape and sexual assault. PREPARE also provides confidential peer support or information for students who have questions or concerns related to rape or sexual assault.
· Available on-campus resources: Here is a link to the full list of campus resources available at Wake Forest regarding sexual assault including confidential resources such as: the Safe Office (available 24/7) the University Counseling Center and Student Health Service. Additionally, Tanya Jachimiak, our new full-time Title IX Coordinator, oversees the University’s response efforts to reports of sexual misconduct (including domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, and sexual harassment) and partners with the Safe Office and other campus resources in developing and implementing our comprehensive approach to prevention.
“We care deeply about our students, their safety, and their well-being,” said Jachimiak. “Even one victim of sexual violence is too many and Wake Forest is committed to preventing these crimes, to ensuring that survivors receive the respect and assistance they need, and that perpetrators are held accountable.”
Parents who have any questions about Wake Forest’s response to reports of sexual misconduct or Title IX compliance issues may contact Jachimiak at 336-758-7258 or email@example.com. Her office is located in Reynolda Hall, Suite 2.