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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Week-long series addresses prevention of sexual violence

<er and Sexuality Center is organizing a series of events with the help of its student employees to prevent sexual violence and foster a supportive environment for sexual abuse survivors. These events are held in the convention of a Carleton tradition called ‘Take Back the Night,’ when supporters and survivors would host similar events that symbolically promoted reclaiming physical spaces to feel safe on campus again.

This series of week-long events began with a community forum held last Tuesday, where around fifty students attended to show support and voice their views on various issues. The open and honest discussion broke the silence around sexual violence, which can be very shameful for its victims. This touched Elizabeth Nguyen, an employee of the GSC for three years now, who said, “It was beautiful and very meaningful.” Nguyen also helps to broaden the definition of sexual misconduct; she said that each person at Carleton, whether they recognize it or not, has been affected by sexual violence, even if it is in the form of inappropriate use of sexual language. This is why supporters of victims sign a pledge to speak up against all forms of harassment, appropriately called, “Not on our campus.”

Events this week included “Speak Up” on Thursday on the Bald Spot, where students read their stories of how they have been affected by sexual violence; this was followed by a tying of ribbons in solidarity and some informal conversation in the Chapel. Next will be a discussion titled “How it can hurt and how it can empower: a common time discussion about language and sexual violence” on Tuesday in Sayles during Common Time. Lastly, there will be a policy workshop in the Alumni Guest House at 5 p.m. on Thursday where people from around the Carleton community can formulate ideas about how to change specific aspects of Carleton’s policies and processes surrounding sexual misconduct.

Regarding students’ limited jurisdiction, when asked about changing misconduct policy on an institution level, Dominik Vendell, also with the GSC for three years now, is optimistic: “The SHARE committee, particularly Karen Williamsen and Hudlin Wagner, are responsive to student appeals and opinions. It takes time to effect changes on an institutional level but that is to be expected and so far, they are concerned with student opinion and these forums generate lively debate.” Currently, there is considerable dissatisfaction over these policies precisely because of the pluralism of opinion they engender; for instance, victim visibility and punishment of assaultive students are hotly contested as the school’s necessarily confidential policy on sexual harassment varies along a spectrum based on individual situations. The aim of such events is to help parse out differences in the community.

As Sarah King, a student employee at the GSC for two years, puts it, “the goal of the events this week is twofold: to prevent sexual violence on campus and to foster a supportive community for survivors of sexual violence.”

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