“I had posted a #MeToo, and I think it’s important to share as many stories when it comes to something like that… Reaching out and sharing my experience and my story may resonate with someone who had a similar experience to me. They may say, ‘Oh, this happened to someone else, I’m not alone. I’m not afraid anymore.’” –Anonymous KSC student
One in Six
Over the past two weeks, victims of sexual violence have been asked to post a simple status on their social media: #MeToo. After the news that Film Producer Harvey Weinstein had been sexually assaulting and harassing women for years, Hollywood starting exploding with stories from A-listers that they too had been a victim. On Oct. 15, actress Alyssa Milano tweeted and asked survivors to change their status to
“Me Too,” to show the magnitude of the problem. The post went viral.
According to ABC News, as of the morning of Oct. 19, the hashtag had been used on Twitter 1.4 million times. There were also over 13 million posts on Facebook.
“It [generally] happens to everyone,” KSC junior Isabel Tisdale said. “It happens on so many different levels, but I think that what makes the #MeToo post so relatable is that there was so many women posting it and they have all experienced sexual assault in all different degrees. It connects a lot of people because it is something that is common for everyone, whether or not they have all experienced the same thing.”
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest Network (RAINN), one in every six women in the United States have been a victim of sexual assault. One in 33 men are a victim as well. RAINN also said 54 percent of sexual assault victims are between the ages of 18-34.
“It’s okay not to report. Like yes, you want to report, but if you are not in a place where you feel comfortable or not safe enough to report, it’s okay. There is no shame in saying, ‘This horrible thing happened to me and I don’t want to report it.’” –Anonymous KSC student
Reporting on Campus
KSC Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residential Life and Housing Services Kent Drake-Deese said most often, people will report a sexual assault to their Resident Assistant (RA.) It is important to note, he said, “When a sexual assault is first reported, some people need to be notified to get that process started…But we keep the name out of it… [The name] only goes from the person you tell and the only other person who will know that name is the Title IX Coordinator.”
KSC Director of Campus Safety and Title IX Coordinator Jeffrey Maher said once a report is filed, he will reach out to the student within 24 hours of receiving the report.
This will be in person, Maher said, because he wants to make sure no one but the reporting party is present due to the privacy of the information.
This initial conversation will include reporting options, the college process and involving police. Any housing accommodations that the survivor may feel they would want, any academic accommodations needed or if the victim wants to put in place a no-contact order are all discussed.
“There has to be a conversation with the victim or survivor to talk about what his or her wishes are. Do they want a college investigation or a college process? And we talk about what that would look like…Is that something they feel will be beneficial for them…We really offer and try to inform the victim or survivor with as much information as they need so that they can make the decision that is right for them,” said Maher. “If you think of someone who has experienced sexual violence, they have suffered a massive loss of control…So part of this process is designed to put them back in control, for them to make the decisions that are most beneficial to them.”
A college process hearing is not like a typical conduct hearing. Instead of meeting with an Residential Director (RD), the reporting party and the responding party will meet with a board that will weigh the evidence.
If a person never wants anything to come of the report, that is fine, said Maher. Sometimes, victims do not want to pursue anything legal or have a college hearing and that is a wish the college will respect. Reporting gives the victim the option, however, to many on-campus services and accommodations.
Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Student Conduct Matt Salter is the next person down the line if a student does wish to pursue a college process hearing.
“Students who have been found responsible for sexual assault over the last year have either been suspended or expelled. Those are the likely outcomes, but every case is unique. Never not report because you don’t have evidence,” said Salter. “The number one concern is how can we help the reporting party get the services they need.”
There are many accommodations for both parties during these hearings, Salter said. If they choose to be in the same room, they have a wall put up between them [and] both parties can hear each other but not see each other. If that is not something one or both of the parties wants, they can FaceTime or Zoomin (a video streaming software used by the university system in cases like these that allows the board to see and hear the party talking but does not allow the opposing party to see or hear that person). Lastly, a student does not have to participate in the hearing board if he or she chooses not to.
“He forgot to listen to what I was saying to him… He forgot to listen to me and was listening only to what he wanted.”– Anonymous KSC student
Let’s End This
Drake-Deese said most of the time, survivors of sexual assault will tell one of their closest friends before anyone else.
KSC sophomore Justin Park said, “Listen. Really listen to them because listening is hard to do, but in those vulnerable moments, you need to and that’s probably what they need in the moment…Ask them what they need and be there for whatever they do need.”
Junior Isabel Tisdale is a sociology major with a woman and gender studies minor. In one of her classes, she had to teach students ways to end rape culture and ways to not normalize it. She said there is no perfect way to fix this problem, but learning to speak up when you see it happening is a huge step in the right direction. Even though it could be embarrassing, always speak up and say something.
Another way is knowing when to stop, when having sex. Tisdale said people should learn what enthusiastic consent is and what it looks like.
Tisdale said it’s a problem that affects women and men, and everyone should be a part of the conversation as much as they feel comfortable, but note “[survivors] of sexual assault don’t owe you their story.”
“I take a second to remind myself that I did nothing wrong. This wasn’t something that I asked for, this wasn’t something that I wanted him to do. This was something that he took from me.” — Anonymous KSC student
Alyssa Salerno can be contacted at email@example.com