Brianna Parker, Web Editor
December 4, 2015
Sexual assault affects all aspects of life, including mental health and spiritual well-being, student leaders stated at a forum to address sexual assault this Tuesday. The community seems to agree as approximately 70 community members, students and faculty attended including President Jane Fernandes.
The forum included three student testimonies of personal interactions with the judicial system in cases of sexual assault and rape. There was also a panel of students and faculty who answered questions regarding the judicial process as it exists now, and steps being taken to improve the system.
SAASA kicked off the event by laying out community rules, including the fact that all student testimonies given were confidential.
SAASA then read their mission statement, which included a commitment to being more inclusive to students of color and queer students.
The panel, consisting of Chair and Associate Professor of Justice & Policy Studies, Director of GuilfordHigher Education in Priseon Initiative and student advocate Barbara Lawrence, Wellness Education Coordinator Kristie Wyatt, Director of Student Judicial Affairs Sandra Bowles, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Todd Clark and junior Teresa Bedzigui, was moderated by LGBTQQ Coordinator Parker Hurley.
The panel addressed questions such as, does everyone involved with judicial processes for sexual assault cases have sensitivity training such as Understanding Racism and Trans 101 training? Does the system put the responsibility of making survivors feel safe on the survivor instead of the school? How is the process of restorative justice implemented in cases of sexual assault and rape? Why are there many cases going unreported?
“I see that people don’t have any idea who to talk to,” said Wyatt. “They don’t know who to report to. They don’t know who is a mandatory reporter and who is not, they don’t know how the process works… and that can be a barrier.”
Another barrier to reporting is that students of color may not feel safe reporting the crime as most of the Student Life staff is white.
Panelists disclosed that all staff involved in the judicial processes for these cases have taken the Understanding Racism workshops, but not all have attended Trans 101 and Safe Zone training.
Students from SAASA concluded the event by reminding the community that this is an ongoing conversation. SAASA meets on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. and is open to all who need support and resources, and to those who want to offer support.