Since January 2017, The Santa Clara has been publishing submissions as part of the Amplify Project. This is the last update.
Survivors of sexual assault are all too often undermined and ignored when they turn to someone for help.
It’s nearly impossible to meet a person who blatantly excuses sexual assault and rape, but hundreds of everyday interactions suggest otherwise. Often referred to as rape culture, the normalization of sexual violence includes rape jokes made between friends, or administrators not taking sexual assault seriously.
At Santa Clara, the available resources for survivors are strained, the services are lacking and the campus culture is apathetic.
Academic institutions are not built for survivors of sexual violence. No college would ever want to admit they have a “rape” problem, lest they should scare away parents of prospective students.
But that’s not an excuse to fail those who have suffered at the hands of a bureaucratic roller-coaster not doing enough to protect them.
Santa Clara is currently being investigated by the federal government, putting them on the Office of Civil Rights “list” of Title IX violators. Yet, Santa Clara has hardly owned up to its sexual assault problem.
I’ve been working as an activist on this campus advocating for sexual assault survivors and awareness since my sophomore year. After three years in the Violence Prevention Program, and two years on the Executive Board, I couldn’t help but be deeply disturbed by the way survivors are treated on campus. I was tired of seeing survivors be silenced by an institution that benefits from not taking responsibility.
I started The Amplify Project in November 2016, creating a space for survivors to tell their stories anonymously.
I wanted to challenge how anonymity—a silencing tactic used by the university—could become a tool for solidarity. The best way to understand the trauma that comes from experiencing a sexual assault is to actually listen to survivors themselves.
While survivors should not be responsible for explaining and justifying their experience just so people “get it,” it can be empowering to tell their story on their own terms.
Pain, disappointment and hope linked the stories together.
Not only did the anonymity protect the author, but it sent a powerful message that sexual assault happens on this campus, hidden from the mainstream. Anyone might know an individual who has survived this type of violence.
In the initial drafts of Amplify stories, the authors often wrote their story as if it were an official report. They emphasized how many times they said “no” and how vehemently they said it. They often admit their actions look bad and that the situation wasn’t perfect, as if trying to explain each decision they made.
The Amplify Project is not a court of public opinion.
It’s not for the reader to decide if something really happened or not; it’s moving past that. It’s acknowledging the trauma and humanity of the author—someone worthy of dignity, someone who should be believed.
It’s also about taking the conversation further.
What are we going to do about survivors who have debt collectors calling about unpaid hospital bills? How have we failed the student survivors who no longer attend Santa Clara because they don’t feel safe pursuing an education here?
The reporting and investigation process at Santa Clara, similar to that of other universities, takes much longer than it should, and it doesn’t accurately reflect the occurrence of assaults.
It’s not uncommon to hear survivors say that reporting their assault and dealing with the administration was just as bad, just as traumatizing, as the actual experience of being raped.
Moreover, survivors often don’t report to the school or the police because they don’t think they’ll be believed.
After one of the stories was published, an author told me that “If one person can relate, then it’s totally worth it.” Since the first story came out in January, my inbox has been filled with emails from students on campus who had been personally affected by sexual assault.
Some of them had never told anyone before, others only had a few close friends who knew. Some students chose to report, others did not because they didn’t trust that Santa Clara would help them (or they didn’t even know the available resources to report at all).
Instead of forcing survivors to navigate a broken and complicated reporting system, Santa Clara should be proactive about how to best support survivors, looking to emulate practices that are survivorcentered and trauma-informed.
If we had to be a thorn in the administration’s side by continually printing these upsetting, first-hand experiences to force that proactiveness, then that’s what we had to do.
Working with and learning from survivors has been the most incredible, inspiring, empowering and authentic experience I’ve had in the last three years.
This work can be exhausting because of the apathetic people who deny that this is an issue, or fail to see why we need to keep raising this point.
It wis frustrating to learn about another perpetrator who gets to stay on campus while a survivor has to leave. It is meeting with an administration that “cares” but doesn’t act. It’s connecting with people over their pain and frustration instead of their joy and success.
It is one thing to acknowledge that sexual assault is a problem on college campuses but it’s another to hear story after story about a problem that won’t go away unless we act.
The Amplify Project was about creating a platform that raises the voices of survivors who have a right to be heard, respected and believed.
For me, the Amplify Project was never about whether or not an audience would believe the story; it’s about whether or not they will take the time to really listen.
Thank you to the survivors, for believing that their stories have power.
Emma Hyndman is a senior political science and women and gender studies major.
Articles in the Opinion section represent the views of the individual authors only and not the views of The Santa Clara or Santa Clara University.