Previously published by The Campus
TW: R*pe, S*xual A*sault
One in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college; more than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault; and 63.3% of men at one university who self-reported acts qualifying as rape or attempted rape admitted to committing repeat rapes, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
With #MeToo echoing across communities, states, and nations, it’s time to have a conversation about what sexual assault and harassment looks like on campuses, and how it should be transformed in the near future.
#MeToo, birthed by African American civil rights activist Tarana Burke, is a movement dedicated to raising voices that have been silenced for years. Over the past several months, this hashtag has come to signify a changing conversation. Yet, as society at large begins to finally take notice of what has been happening since forever, it is vital to highlight the particularities that arise for the #MeToo movement in college. The same fears that follow, primarily, women in everyday life also plague college students, yet these fears are enhanced in distinct ways.
Now, this is not to imply that similar dynamics don’t permeate rape culture- from Harvey Weinstein’s hotel room to a residence hall- but rather to take a better look at the statistics mentioned above.
To begin, defining what sexual violence consists of in college can be tumultuous, especially considering that people are often experiencing their first sexual encounters. Aeriell Armas, President of the CCNY club W.O.R.T.H, or Women of Resilience, Tenacity, and Humility, hopes that college students are able to grasp the vastness of this movement. The fact that some have difficulty defining sexual abuse, Armas said, “just shows how imperative it is to have a #MeToo movement on college campuses, and not let it die out. It’s not just a hashtag, it’s people’s lives.”
Furthering the dialogue, Armas wants every survivor to know that there are voices to join their own in this fight.
“You are not alone. And there is help for you. The entire point of #MeToo is that despite people’s hesitation to speak up, so many people are affected by sexual assault and harassment. Speaking out gives victims a chance to see that, and although it’s sad, it’s comforting to know you aren’t the only one because there is strength in numbers to prevent more people from being affected,” she shared.
CCNY student Destiny Spruill holds a coinciding conception of #MeToo. Spruill, Secretary for the CCNY section of the National Council of Negro Women, has been following the movement herself. “Not only did Burke start the movement, but she has been working as an activist to spread awareness about it as well. It was great seeing that Alyssa Milano publicly recognized her contributions as well,” she told. Speaking personally, Spruill maintained, “This has actually opened my eyes to my own experiences, and those of family members and friends because it seems that everyone that I know, including myself, has been affected one way or another.”
In relation to CCNY, Spruill thinks that #MeToo “should look like an ongoing discussion encouraged by the student body as well as the Administration, because it’s needed. It should look like supporting our students who are survivors. Sometimes, it should look and feel painful, because so many women have been unsupported in their experiences with sexual assault and never have had a platform to open up about it.”
Armas, and W.O.R.T.H as a whole, aspires to keep the conversation alive at CCNY. “I think the #MeToo movement at CCNY was productive for some time, but it has died down quite a bit.”
In order to keep an open discourse about these very real things happening to very real people, the movement requires initiative from several different sources.
Men on campus can and must serve as one of those sources- as both survivors and allies. Spruill commented, “I think [a] difficulty is getting males/men involved into the conversation. I’m not sure if the majority of them are uninterested, afraid, or unaware, but they need to understand women’s perspective on the issue. They also need to know the role of men in sexual assault and harassment, the power dynamic of sexual assault, as well as the patriarchal roots that support and justify assault and harassment.” She continued on, “Not only that, but it seems to be taboo that women aren’t the only ones who get assaulted, men do too. So the information could benefit them beyond being our advocates and supporting us during this longstanding movement, and after this movement.”
Unlike some other institutions, City College has been very vocal on its stance towards gendered and sexual violence. Their website states, “Anyone of any gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, citizenship status, race, class or educational level can suffer from sexual harassment, including sexual violence. Our goal is to help you understand what sexual harassment means and let you know that there are people at CUNY and in the community who can help if you or others experience it.”
Even more, CCNY provides information surrounding the process of defining sexual violence, reporting an assault, and receiving counseling after an occurrence.
That noted, the students are the ones who keep the college engaged, committed, and active in protecting survivors. A university can have paragraph after paragraph of assurances, but the power of the collective is what keeps the system accountable. Just as other movements of social justice sprout from the roots, so must the #MeToo movement on campus be orchestrated. This is not, as so many vehemently argue, an issue of women in college being promiscuous. It is instead a culture problem which constantly devalues women’s lives, especially women of color, queer women, and transgender women.
The individuals seen throughout the photographs in this issue are but a few that resonate with the #MeToo movement whether directly or as allies.
Truthfully put, the fact that this article itself is necessary, the fact that the aforementioned statistics are still true, and the fact that individuals are still crying to be believed makes #MeToo on campuses, including CCNY, paramount. As Armas put it, “I’m glad that this conversation has finally surfaced, but it’s long overdue.”
The Campus wants to act as a platform for any and all who feel compelled to further this movement by sharing their #MeToo testimony with the publication by contacting the writer of this article, stopping by the office (NAC 1/119), or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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