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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Speak Up!

<rd that 55 colleges are under federal investigation for their handling of sex violence claims, I quickly checked the list to see if Carleton was one of those schools. At first I was relieved and proud that Carleton wasn’t on the list, but I soon found myself wondering whether not being on this list is enough. I found myself wondering whether not being on the list should be really be a source of pride, or if not being on the list should be expected. I found myself wondering whether there should really be any need to have a list at all.

I feel that the list is a great way to hold colleges accountable for their inaction in sex violence cases, but holding colleges accountable doesn’t stop sexual violence from occurring. As great as Title XI and its application to sexual violence in educational programs is, laws aren’t people. Laws don’t have feelings, and laws can be bent to the will of the institution they are serving. What stops sexual violence from occurring is speaking up, which is exactly what some Carleton College students and the Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC) are doing.

Every year at Carleton, there is an event called “Speak Up.” Before writing this article, I hadn’t heard of “Speak Up,” but when members of the GSC contacted me, I knew I wanted to write about this event. I was really interested in the history of such an event, since sexual violence isn’t something that is readily talked about, even at liberal colleges such as Carleton. Staff member of the GSC Kaaren Williamsen told me that “Speak Up” started about 7 or 8 years ago as a way for the Carleton community to come together on an annual basis to speak up about the impact of sexual violence in our community. It has also turned into an annual time to share stories of healing and support. There is a great deal of compassion and support on this campus, and “Speak Up” is a time when that comes out — friends support friends and “Speak Up” provides the context for that to be highlighted. What really struck me about what Kaaren had to say was the fact that there is “a great deal of compassion and support on this campus, and it gives me great comfort that although sexual violence affects all colleges, even ones not under federal investigation such as Carleton, at least Carleton is being open about the presence of sexual violence on campus. That being said, I think we can do better. I know of people who have been affected by sexual violence at Carleton, and it makes me mad that all they can do about is talk about what happened. Sure, they can file a formal sexual misconduct complaint through Carleton, but that won’t heal the wounds that sexual violence leaves behind.

It doesn’t matter how comparatively good Carleton is at dealing with sexual violence, because until no cases of sexual assault take place, we need to continue having this discussion. We shouldn’t be patting ourselves on the back for not being on some horrible federal investigation list, because that list shouldn’t even exist. I know that this article is a little late, considering that “Speak Up” happened this Thursday, but I strongly encourage everyone reading this article to talk to your friends about the presence of sexual violence on campus. I feel that unless everyone gets involved in the discussion, the presence of sexual violence won’t change. I know that it can feel awkward talking about sexual violence if you haven’t personally experienced it, but everyone has a stake in Carleton. Everyone has a duty to make Carleton a safer place, and we Carls can make this happen.

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