THE SANTA CLARA
November 10, 2016
“Rape doesn’t happen here,” is one of the most dangerous yet pervasive misconceptions about sexual violence on college campuses. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college.
Chances are, someone you know, such as a peer, friend or partner, has been affected by sexual violence at some point during their time at Santa Clara.
For many reasons, survivors are not given a space to share their experiences. Although there is no singular emotion or reaction that is the same for all survivors, many feel ashamed. They might minimize or dismiss their experience by blaming themselves for something they did to invite the assault or offer excuses for the perpetrator. Experiencing sexual assault can also feel isolating and stigmatizing, making survivors feel invisible and silenced.
If a survivor decides to report to the police or academic institution, they can be silenced by the privacy of the reporting process. Throughout the respective investigation and interviewing processes, anonymity protects the survivor, but they do not have much control over their narrative. They are not at liberty to discuss details of the case with friends or family.
In the criminal justice system, survivors’ only opportunity to share their experience occurs at sentencing in the form of a “victim impact statement,” such as the one widely shared in the Brock Turner case.
Once the case is closed, a sanction or sentence may be handed down, but the survivor no longer has a channel to talk about their experience somewhat publicly.
If they do talk about their experience, they risk putting themselves back in the public eye, with an increased risk of being questioned and harassed and their story being picked apart.
Protecting privacy is essential, but what if a survivor wants to tell their story or share a part of their experience?
Avenues for survivors to speak out safely do not currently exist at Santa Clara. The Title IX and Office of Student Life ensure official investigations are conducted and the proper reports are filed so that perpetrators may be found “responsible” or not. Programs through CAPS and the Wellness Center, such as one-on-one sessions and the Violence Prevention Program, offer restricted support due to limited appointment availability and lack of funding.
While I am grateful for the services they provide, I still feel that something is missing. Survivors have withdrawn from the Santa Clara community, feeling unsafe and ignored.
Those that remain on campus are oftentimes left to fend for themselves to request accommodations, receive counseling and even find places where they feel safe eating, sleeping and studying.
When sexual violence is made invisible by institutional structures, not only is it normalized, but it erases the individuals that must carry the shame and stigma alone.
Starting January 2017, The Santa Clara is starting The Amplify Project, creating a necessary space for survivors to anonymously submit their stories of sexual violence. We invite you, as a survivor, to submit your story, no matter where you are in your recovery or writing process, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This project aims to amplify the voices of those who are often silenced by stigma, shame or fear. For survivors of sexual assault, writing can be used as a tool for empowerment. It carries the potential to empower survivors to discern and digest an often confusing and isolating experience.
The Amplify Project wants you to be heard, supported and empowered. Being heard means trusting a community to give you the space to tell your story, while protecting your anonymity. Being supported means valuing your identity, as someone who is more than their experience, and working to eliminate the shame and stigma associated with sexual violence. Finally, being empowered means survivors feel confident that their experience, while not something that defines them, is valid and real.
It doesn’t matter whether a survivor chooses to report or not, whether they’ve disclosed to their friends, family, or peers or even if they struggle with the label “survivor.” What matters is that a survivor has a right to tell their truth, free from judgement or interruption. Survivors have a right to know that they are not alone and that the simple label of “survivor” means so much more than just a traumatic experience.
The most important step in stopping rape is acknowledging that it happens within our community and listening to what survivors have to say. Members of the Santa Clara community, including students, staff and faculty, can stand in solidarity with the many survivors that exist on this campus. The Amplify Project stands and advocates for you, a survivor, who should not be silenced any longer.
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
Correction: Santa Clara’s Violence Prevention Program has not teamed up with The Santa Clara to create the Amplify Project.