by Alyssa Cohen ’21
Due to the recent political controversy involving Brett Kavanaugh, as well as the rise of the #MeToo Movement, the nationwide plight of sexual assault has finally come into the limelight.
As the topic of sexual assault and its repercussions become a household conversation, we must ask ourselves: What are college campuses doing to promote sexual assault awareness, prevention, and support among America’s youth?
One in five female college students are survivors of sexual assault. In terms of Providence College undergraduates, if that statistic holds true, within our student body of 4,300, comprised 55 percent by females, approximately 443 students are survivors of sexual assault. However, that statistic fails to account for male survivors of sexual assault.
To that end, our campus’ resources for survivors of sexual assault and rape are unimpressive to say the least. In fact, our school provides far fewer on-campus resources for sexual assault survivors than nearly any other academic institution in the region.
The University of Massachusetts Amherst, for example, provides 24 hour on-campus medical care that will contact a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) to collect evidence and perform an exam (or “rape kit”) on a survivor. The University will also contact a Title IX certified counselor advocate to provide emotional support and explain the individual’s options in pressing charges.
The University of Rhode Island offers similar resources to survivors of sexual assault. A survivor may receive an on-campus examination by a sexual assault nurse examiner until 8 p.m. and after that time, the school provides transportation for survivors to a local hospital.
Conversely, here at PC, we have none of these resources. Aside from EMTs, there are no medical resources or certified counselors present on campus during weekends. Therefore, if a student is sexually assaulted on campus, they are instructed to inform their resident assistant, contact safety and security, and if the individual wishes to be medically examined, they are responsible for providing their own hospital transportation.
As a campus community we must ask ourselves: Is it ethical to hold a survivor personally accountable for either calling an uber or paying up to $1000 for an ambulance after enduring the trauma of a sexual assault?
Regardless of intention, the failure of our institution to intervene and prioritize the physical and emotional health of our students by minimally providing hospital transportation in these circumstances connotes a lack of support to victims of sexual assault.
That said, the College does offer education on sexual assault prevention through the freshman orientation workshop, Step Up! Bystander Intervention Training. However, this program fails to emphasize the importance of being medically examined after a sexual assault and the proper steps to report the crime so the survivor can obtain substantive evidence.
This is especially disheartening, considering only 11 percent of rapes on campus are reported, already making it the most underreported violent crime.
The College is also affiliated with Day One—The Sexual Assault and Trauma Center, provided under Pc’s Victim Advocacy Support and Education (VASE) program—which educates and councils all survivors of sexual assault in the greater Providence area.
However, most notably, a student organized advocacy group called RISE has been established on campus this semester that will provide support and education as well as awareness on sexual assault. This group plans to certify all interested members in Title IX so they may help any on-campus survivors through times of hardship. If you are interested in joining or learning more about RISE, contact Brianna O’Shaughnessy ’19 at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Essentially, it is our obligation as PC students, until our institution implements reforms and the necessary resources for survivors of sexual assault, to educate both ourselves and our friends. We must look after one another in potentially risky situations, and empathize with any individual suffering from the physical and emotional trauma of a sexual assault.