Campus sexual assault has been getting some fierce attention in the media, online and through policy lately. This fall the voices of campus organizers are making some beautiful noise, and the timing was perfect for the first National Campus Sexual Assault Summit hosted by PAVE.
The goal of this event was to “galvanize the collective national movement,” and I was so happy to be able to participate with survivors, advocates and campus partners in DC. This summit brought together multiple disciplines and stakeholders from campuses across the country to discuss fixing the system. Panels and speakers were live broadcast to over 300 college campuses, and an interactive town hall and hastag #pavesummit kept the conversation going online.
Speakers for the event covered some serious ground in a few hours, and presentations were nothing short of amazing. A surprise visit from White House Advisor on Violence Against Women Lynn Rosenthal jump started the day with a discussion of legislative commitments to students including the recent Campus SaVE Act. My favorite comment of Ms. Rosenthal’s was the “thank you to student activists” brought on behalf of President Obama and Vice President Biden. Talk about a shout out!
As the panels went on we heard brave, resilient and inspiring survivor voices on campus organizing. A brilliant take away from activist Laura Dunn: “Your voice is the most powerful tool.” Next we heard a legal perspective on campus policy and the justice system, and it was hugely informative. This panel outlined a survivor-centered approach to the campus response, and I hope there were many campus administrators with open ears in the audience. ICYMI, in a nutshell, not allowing survivors to have any control or voice in the process is revictimizing.
The next two panels focused on underserved populations, and these speakers provided a framework for honoring the experiences of male survivors, students of color and LGBTQQA. Male Survivor spoke about supporting the unique needs of men who face challenges related to stigma and stereotypes of masculinity. Next was the discussion of inherently biased systems and marginalized voices on campuses. The speaker noted higher rates of victimization among women of color and LGBTQ individuals. The issue of the invisibility of marginalized individuals on campus is a huge barrier to safety and justice.
Next a panel provided strategies on engaging men in the movement and the role of bystanders. A closing session was delivered by Sarah Rice, a special guest and former MTV Real World participant. Sarah delivered an energizing and positive outlook for the future of campuses and recalled the silence of survivor experiences in the media which played a role in deciding to share her experience on MTV.
The day was as action-packed as it looks on paper, not to mention insightful contributions from summit host Angela Rose of PAVE and participants in the room and online. To conclude an energizing day, the discussion looked forward, and ideas on next steps and movement successes were shared. A lot of this discussion focused on campus systems and the need for synergy between the multidisciplinary parties involved in institutional response and prevention efforts. Policies, accountability and strategy were laid out on the table, but the call to action moving forward focused on raising collective voices for change. Amen!