- Category: Volume 87 (Fall 2015 - Spring 2016)
- Published: 28 October 2015
- Written by KERRY BREEN | STAFF WRITER
The University held a ‘Hawks United Against Sexual Misconduct’ week, to spread awareness of sexual assault on college campuses through presentations and panels that took place campus-wide from Monday, Oct. 12 to Friday, Oct. 16.
The week was an effort to bring awareness to the victims of sexual assault, how to help them, and how to prevent assaults from happening in the first place.
According to statistics gathered by the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault, it is believed that one in four college women will be assaulted in their lifetime. It is also believed that in nearly 50 percent of attacks, the perpetrators did not believe that they were committing rape, despite the fact that their act matched the legal description of it.
“We have a robust and comprehensive policy of dealing with issues of sexual misconduct [on campus],” said Mary Anne Nagy, Vice President for Student Life and Leadership Engagement at the University. “We learn all the time and make modifications and changes. In general, we are very focused on the student as the victim survivor, while we ensure that the student who may be charged as the alleged perpetrator also has their rights protected.”
Two events took place on Monday. One titled “A Call to Men” was hosted by Juan Ramos in Wilson Auditorium; the other was a presentation by the Monmouth University Police Department, held by Corporal Jeffrey Layton in Pozycki Hall.
On Tuesday, health and physcial education professor Christopher Hirschler hosted an event called “Be The Change You Want To See.” Other events that day included a presentation on domestic violence by Janet Lee of the non-profit organization 180: Turning Lives Around, and a screening and panel discussion of the film “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary that talks about the epidemic of rape on college campuses.
According to Nagy, who was a part of the panel discussion, “The Hunting Ground” will be used for campus training as well. There are two versions of the film that exist: – one is the complete movie, which is an hour and 43 minutes; the other is a cut version that lasts an hour. About two dozen students attended the screening and panel. The film follows undergraduate rape survivors pursuing both their education and justice, despite ongoing harassment and the issues that face them and their families.
“It’s a very powerful, disturbing film,” she said. “There were very few students in attendance, and I think that’s unfortunate. I think they could have learned a lot from the film, and I hope they would appreciate that our campus approach is very different from what was seen on the screen.”
Nagy hopes to implement the film as part of training for resident assistants and student orientation leaders, as well as possibly showing it to members of student government in the hope of letting them know more about the epidemic of rape on college campuses.
On Wednesday, there were three programs. The first was a presentation on domestic violence held by Specialist Professor of Psychological Counseling John Muldoon; another was held by CommWorks, called “No Is A Complete Sentence!” The final event of the day was an event called “Scream Theatre,” held in the Wilson Auditorium; according to Nagy, it was one of the best-attended events on campus.
“It was intended to have a discussion about healthy and unhealthy relationships with a direction towards identifying domestic and/or sexual violence and situations,” said Muldoon. “We also wanted to talk about coping skills for those situations and myths about domestic and sexual violence related to being on a university campus.”
Events on Thursday included a presentation entitled “Dudes Matter Too,” about male sexual assault – something that happens to one in six men under the age of 18, according to 1in6.org, a site that offers resources and support for men that have been victims of assault. Other events on Thursday included a presentation called “Lunch and Learn”; the third event, and the most popularly attended, was a “Take Back the Night” rally held on the quad.
Take Back The Night events are held nationwide, done with the intent of educating and raising awareness of sexual assault. The organization hopes to end all forms of sexual violence, no matter what label they may fall under.
The week ended on Friday, with a morning presentation on bystander intervention, held by NJCASA spokesperson Sarah Bear. It was a film screening of the movie “Small Thing”. The screening was followed by a question and answer session with the filmmaker.
However, there were other methods in place to draw awareness to sexual assault during the week. The above events are considered ‘active participation events’, according to Nagy. Another way the University encouraged student involvement was through the use of ‘passive events’.
One of these passive events was the twenty school-desks placed strategically around the Monmouth University campus. There were some in the underpass; others were placed inside or right in front of the doors of academic buildings. All had a testimonial taped to them, beginning with the words “I am not here today because…” and then telling the story of a sexual assault that had occurred during their academic career.
“‘I think I’ve heard more people comment about that passive program and the impact that had on them and really pausing them to think - “Wow. That’s pretty powerful, that someone’s not here today because they may have been a victim of sexual assault,”” said Nagy. “I had a student tell me that they found themselves compelled to read each chair because it was so powerful for them.”
Other passive programs included a book display in the library and signs about consent being found in the restrooms of academic buildings, where students could read them.
It is the hope that the conversation about college campus sexual assault will continue beyond this one week. Professor Christopher Hirschler, who was heavily involved with the events of the week, says he makes sure that he touches upon the subject in his classes as well.
“Because I think the topic is so critical, I cover sexual assault prevention during the second week of classes in the First Year Seminar that I teach,” he said. “As Faculty Director of Study Abroad, I created a video that addresses safety issues, including sexual assault, because studies have shown that the risk of sexual assault is even greater while abroad.”
Nagy also hopes that students know that there are people for them to reach out to on campus if they are to be the victim of assault.
“I think it’s very important for students to understand what the university’s position is with regards to sexual misconduct,” said Nagy. “I strongly encourage a student that, if they are a victim of such an act, that they should talk to someone. They do not have to talk to the police or the university, they do not have to press charges - that is always your right to do, and we will help you, we will counsel you, we will walk you through the whole thing. But if you become a victim, you should talk to somebody, and there are safe places on campus to do so. It is important for you to know that there are safe places on campus to talk, and if you want to do something beyond that, there are plenty of places here to help you do that as well.”
Such safe spaces include Counselling and Psychological Services, or the nurses in the health center. They are not required to disclose the details of assault, and the student does not have to press charges or tell the police about the assault unless they feel comfortable doing so.
“It’s on us,” said Nagy. “The school is here to support, to help, to offer resources, but we need help from our students. Don’t be a bystander – if a situation feels wrong, say something. Students are the best defense for each other, not just here, but on campuses nationwide. Students are here twenty-four/seven, they see everything. Don’t stay silent.”