Sadly, each day’s news has become a litany of reports of sexual violence, new accusations against famous people in entertainment and politics and even the justice system, old cases of priests abusing children and bishops covering it up, women coming forth to proclaim #MeToo, and men, too, admitting that they, too, have suffered sexual abuse most often by other men. Once in a while, a woman is the perpetrator, but such cases are rare. Most often, sexual abuse and assault are crimes against women, children and vulnerable persons, and most often perpetrated by men who overpower their victims in acts of rage, drunkenness, displays of power gone mad.
As the leading women’s educational institution in Washington, Trinity stands for justice for women and all people, and abhors violence against women, children and all who are vulnerable. Trinity seeks to educate and advocate for improved protections, stronger sanctions, and more effective remedies for the pervasive social problem of sexual violence. Many members of the Trinity community engage with these issues in coursework and clinical locations and volunteer service, and, too often, some of our own Trinity sisters, colleagues and friends suffer assault and violence in homes and communities, among families or at the hands of strangers. We work constantly to make sure that such crimes do not happen within our community, but our vigilance and educational efforts must be constant and we can never do enough.
Toward that end, we are planning a major symposium in Spring 2019 on the topic of the #MeToo Movement and Sexual Violence, and we invite students, faculty and staff to participate in planning the symposium. The day will be an opportunity for presentations learning and dialogue on topics related to sexual violence, with some special sessions on the crisis within the Catholic Church, the impact of sexual abuse on families and children, the role of the justice system, and the particular responsibilities of colleges and universities including Trinity.
As one first step toward planning the symposium, we conducted a survey of the Trinity community last week to begin to glean insights and opinions on these critical topics. Nearly 200 students, faculty and staff have answered the survey so far, revealing how important this topic is in our community. Thank you! This week on my blog, I will share some of the results of the survey, which will also be a useful tool for the symposium planners. If you have not already completed the survey and would like to do so, please click on this link and do it now. You can also add your comments in the comment box on this blog.
Following is a summary of the answers to the first question on the survey: (Note: “Professional Students” indicates the combined answers of students in SPS/BGS/EDU/NHP)
What is your opinion of the scope of the problem of sexual abuse, assault and harassment in contemporary society?
|Statement #1: Sexual abuse, assault and harassment are widespread conditions among all institutions and communities.|
|Statement #2: Mainstream media have effectively exposed the problem of sexual abuse and assault in society.|
|Statement #3: Educational institutions are doing enough to address the problem of sexual abuse and assault.|
|Statement #4: Congress needs to enact stricter laws to prevent sexual abuse and assault.|
You had many comments on this question! A sample of the comments:
- A CAS student writes: “I believe that mainstream media has brought to light many stories of sexual abuse and harassment but I don’t think that it has effectively exposed it. I think just hearing stories isn’t enough I think people should discuss what others can do to help and to change their ways as well. To clarify, just because I say that “just hearing stories isn’t enough” I do not mean any ill will to those who are brave enough to come out and speak up. I admire them very much because they are voicing their experiences. That’s something many individuals out there are still afraid to do for numerous reasons.”
- A Professional Student writes: “While the media shines light on cases of sexual assault, many of them focus on white and/or wealthy women. Sexual violence occurs everywhere, and I would like to see that same news coverage given to all demographics.”
- Another Professional Student comments: “The media is powerful and needs to do more to change the sick culture that promotes the “boys will be boys” mentality. It also must stop fostering a culture of abuse for entertainment purposes. Women are not objects for male gratification and broken egos. We are divinely created and the carriers of life. We are powerful beyond measure and must be respected.”
- A member of the Faculty/Staff writes: “I really don’t think it is Congress’ job – I think sexual assault issues are ones that need to be addressed in schools, communities, homes, families, and in the general way we portray and view sexuality as a culture. I don’t think federal laws can change that.”
- A CAS student writes: “I believe it is very important to remember due process, the burden of proof, and innocent until proven guilty. It is very critical to seek to verify accusations. The validity of claims must be verified before blind judgement. There are many cases of false allegations and innocent men’s lives are
ruined. A good example id the Duke Lacrosse case and the Rolling Stone.”
- A Faculty/Staff comment: “While #MeToo has been somewhat effective in its mission and message, it has not brought to the forefront, those who are not in entertainment-those whose voices might be “muffled” by the celebrities and well-known names because they are the industry workers, i.e. hotel maids, custodial staff, food chain workers, etc. The media has failed to uncover the many acts of sexual assault committed against women of color, especially those who have been detained by law enforcement or other authorities of the law. We also have yet to really know the magnitude of sexual assault among school-age youth, especially middle and high school or the most vulnerable of our populations-those with special needs.”
- A CAS student writes: “We often hear about Title IX in schools, but, is that really enough? We hear nothing from Congress. There is a President in office now where there was evidence of sexual assault on
women and everyone turned the other cheek. It just goes to show that sexual assault is not taken
seriously by Congress and the world.”
- A Professional student comments: “I think Educational Institutions need to do more to address this problem as many in these Institutions are yet to speak out against the ordeal and at the same time some of the perpetrators don’t exhibit the behavior openly enough but indirectly tortures their victim by subjecting them to intimidation and humiliation, i guess because they could not openly make sexual advances, hence, they still kind of harasses student and even sometime inflicts punishment in a form of awarding poor grades.”
- A Faculty/Staff comment: “This is a very sobering issue for America and one that is at times hard to tackle. I say this because I am a HUGE supporter of the Me Too movement having been sexually harassed/assaulted myself. On the other hand I have worked in industries and, unfortunately, I’ve witnessed many women getting ahead by using their sexuality as a tool and some I might add were proud of it. I doubt at that time they thought much about the consequences of their actions or that we would now be talking about a movement. I also believe that back then many believed this to be the only way in which they could advance their careers. I think that we are now living in a time where women are no longer afraid to really speak their mind, fight back and call people out on it… especially with regards to the politics of this new administration but, also our culture is different than it was in the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s. In those times it was always chalked up as “men are just dogs” or “boys will be boys” but, as someone once said recently “The boys will be boys credit card” has reached it’s limit and the balance is now due and must be paid.” I do wonder how this will impact many industries going forward. For example, are male bosses going to be more careful in the actions or will they more hesitant to hire a female even if she is more qualified if she is perceived as a threat? Will movies and music videos change? All too often you have scantily clad “models poppin bottles” as they say around a pool of rap artists or the female antagonist in a movie trying to seduce the male protagonist? What do we do with those images and how do we address that type of hypocrisy?”
Next up: you had a LOT to say about Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford and the Senate Judiciary Committee…. watch this blog for another installment of survey results!