Sex and gender at work, in bed, and on the street

How not to talk to a survivor of campus sexual assault

April 5, 2011 - 04:00 PM
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Last week, a student protest unfolded at American University when the AU administration refused to sign off on a $300,000 federal grant application because it would require the school to implement mandatory sexual assault trainings. Students and administrators have come to a temporary truce on the issue, agreeing to reconvene in the fall to work towards implementing increased sexual assault prevention on campus. Meanwhile, the administrative response continues to offer up lessons in how not to respond to rape on a college campus.

Yesterday, we discussed how not to prevent sexual assault at a major university. Today, let's cover how not to respond to a student who claims to have been sexually assaulted on your campus. "I'm curious to what you would say all the people that are going to be sexually assaulted between now and when you decide this program is good enough to be implemented," one student asked university Vice President Gail Short Hanson, the administrator responsible for stonewalling the grant application, at a recent protest staged in her office.

Let's find out what she would say!

After publicly discussing her experience being sexually assaulted at American University, student Nicole Wisler confronted Hanson about why she refused to sign off on mandatory sexual assault trainings at the school. "I've had stops placed on my account for library fines, disciplinary things . . . and yes, it was uncomfortable, it was frustrating," Wisler said. "I was also sexually assaulted. That was really uncomfortable." Added Wisler: "Sacrificing the discomfort of a few students who might not complete it in the first amount of time versus the safety of 400 students seems ludicrous to me. And that's what I can't get past."

"I know you know your equation doesn't work," Hanson replied. "But I mean, it's an emotional thing. It gets applause. But if I sign that grant, sexual assault on this campus is not going to be ended."

"It's an emotional thing" and "It gets applause": Two completely condescending and all-around inappropriate statements to make to a sexual assault survivor who has just revealed her assault experience to you! Similarly unhelpful: "If I sign that grant [targeted at ending sexual assault on campus], sexual assault on this campus is not going to be ended."

Nevertheless, in a staff editorial published yesterday, student newspaper the Eagle urged student activists to be more respectful to the administration in its protests over the issue. "There are many ways to express disapproval or discontent—storming someone’s office and refusing to move until he or she signs something isn’t a good one," the editorial reads. "The likelihood of garnering support among the campus community diminishes when groups or individuals choose to take a less respectful route to achieve their objectives."

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  1. LaLa Seidensticker LaLa Seidensticker

    LaLa Seidensticker

    Apr 07, 2011 - 03:32:15 PM

    The video is not working.

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  2. Tim10 Tim10

    A. Reader

    Apr 06, 2011 - 11:24:59 AM

    The solution to the problem of sexual assaults on campus is simple: Stop treating college campuses as medieval fiefdoms that stand apart from the world and require the civil authorities to enforce the laws that apply to everybody else in the community. Restrict campus courts to issues like cheating on exams and let the grown-ups deal with felonies. When somebody commits rape or robbery or burglary or deals drugs out of his dorm room, call the cops and lock him up. College administrators who fail to report crimes to the civil authorities should be prosecuted for obstruction of justice. When drunken frat boys start going to prison for sexual assault, and college presidents get locked up for concealing crimes on their campuses, college quads will become the safest place in town.

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  3. WonkyFactory WonkyFactory

    Wonky Factory

    Apr 05, 2011 - 04:32:49 PM

    YEAH, GEEZ, STOP GETTING ALL EMOTIONALLY POLITE AND FREAKISHLY REASONABLE ABOUT HAVING BEEN ASSAULTED. WOULD YOU PEOPLE STOP APPLAUDING HER FOR SPEAKING OUT, AT THE RISK OF PUBLIC SHAMING, ABOUT BEING VICTIMIZED? UGH. QUIT YER WHINGING. WE ALL KNOW THE REAL VICTIMS HERE ARE PEOPLE WHO MIGHT HAVE TO ACTUALLY MAKE AN EFFORT TO REGISTER FOR CLASS. Oh, sorry, looks like my caps lock got stuck.

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