April 9th, 2014
The following email was sent to the campus community on April 9th on behalf of Penny Rue, Vice President for Campus Life.
Dear Wake Forest Community,
I’d like to invite you to be a part of a somber conversation on the Wake Forest Campus. April is a time for reflecting on a serious issue—sexual assault. At Wake Forest, and on campuses nationwide, events are underway in recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Unfortunately, we began April with a campus-wide crime alert that undercut our commitment to recognizing Sexual Assault Awareness Month as an educational opportunity for the entire University community.
On the second day of this month, the University alerted students, faculty and staff to a student’s report that she had been sexually assaulted on campus. The message announced some key details about the student’s report, then clumsily included well-intended, but inappropriate recommendations for avoiding sexual assault. These comments contributed to a culture of victim-blaming that is all too prevalent in our society. Sexual assault is never a survivor’s fault. Several members of the campus community responded with insightful suggestions to improve our messaging and, as a result, we will bring together a group of students and staff to help us get it right.
Sadly, it is likely such a message will be needed again, as sexual assault is a reality on and off college campuses, and Wake Forest is not immune.
My message today is an opportunity to make some important points. First, “no” always means “no.” From the time our students arrive on campus, it is a powerful message that merits repeating. We also must recognize that the absence of “no” does not mean “yes.” Many survivors tell us they struggle to find words at all to express their discomfort or fear when experiencing sexual violence.
Second, Wake Forest focuses on preventing sexual assault at the campus level and intervening once violence has occurred at the individual level. We are striving to create a campus free from harassment, discrimination and gender bias. This aspiration takes time to achieve, but we are making strides. It is a community-wide effort, and we invite all to join us in working towards that goal. At the same time, we are prepared to offer dedicated support and assistance to the survivors of such violence and we pledge to address the perpetrators through campus judicial and criminal proceedings.
April offers an opportunity to learn more about the University’s expectations and resources regarding sexual assault. Start by visiting the Safe Office’s web site. You can learn much about the resources available both for the survivor and those who want to help create a healthy culture intolerant of sexual assault. The Safe Office, providing confidential support 24/7, is a major resource for our community. It can be reached at 336-758-5285.
Safe’s web site also includes a link to the University’s sexual assault policy. All on our campus can benefit from knowing it.
Meanwhile, learn more about this month’s events that the Safe Office and PREPARE have organized in support of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. You will find that they have partnered with “FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture” to bring a national advocacy project to campus. The project is known as “The Monument Quilt.” There is also “Jeans for Justice Day” on April 24.
Finally, Wake Forest’s message to all is that this University stands behind survivors of sexual assault. Our community’s commitment is to serve them and their needs, while working to transform our campus into a place where sexual assault is unthinkable.
Vice President, Campus Life