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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Why we should have conversations surrounding sexual violence on campus

Peyton McKenzie

Pitiful and fake smiles, a sympathetic nod, a thumbs up, wide eyes looking at me up and down. Were these feelings of sympathy, disgust, fear, solidarity, appreciation or just discomfort? I contemplated that as I sat there for five hours.

Behind a table prepared to give information for the Survivor Advocacy Alliance, I watched as parents with their prospective students rushed past our table during Admitted Students Day.

The Survivor Advocacy Alliance is a student organization that supports survivors of gender and sexuality-based violence on college campuses. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so I was shocked to see this reaction from onlookers.

At first, I thought it was an unusual experience, until a mother and her daughter came up to the table because they saw our shiny, teal tablecloth. When the mother read our poster, she grabbed her daughter by the shoulders and made a beeline for the next table. I had no idea what to make of that.

As parents with their prospective students dodged the table, I felt as though I had been slapped in the face.

Eighty-one percent of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t know if it’s an issue, according to Love is Respect. Aside from the stigma, this could explain why parents avoided the table.

In the beginning, our brochures about sexual assault resources remained untouched. I understand that talking about sexual and gender violence can be uncomfortable, but how do you think survivors feel?

The Red Zone, taking place from the beginning of the fall semester to Thanksgiving break, is the time of year when the majority of college campus sexual assaults happen, according to Promoting Awareness/Victim Empowerment. First-year undergraduate students are statistically the most vulnerable — which is why it is important to know the resources and support that are accessible.

First-year students are the most vulnerable because this might be the first time they are living away from home, exposure to campus culture and Greek Life rushing. They may be navigating new relationships, meeting new people, adjusting to the transition from high school, experimenting with alcohol or substances for the first time — which can increase the risk of experiencing sexual violence and may pose as barriers to reporting.

There are a multitude of reasons why parents may not discuss sexual violence with their child — because they believe that they could protect them, that the conversation about prevention would be too frightening or that it was not relevant to discuss, according to a study from Children and Youth Services Review.

That being said, there is a misconception that sexual and gender violence must be physical for it to “count,” and this is extremely dangerous. There are many forms of violence such as harassment, stalking, emotional and psychological abuse. This misconception is significant because some young adults may not realize that what they experienced was an act of violence to begin with.

More than 57% of college students who report experiencing dating violence have experienced it while in college and 80% of survivors of stalking know the person who victimized them, according to Know Your IX. Education and community outreach is key to sexual and gender violence prevention.

My friend and I reminded ourselves that even if people didn’t stop and ask for more information, like they did for other student organizations, at least we got our word out. SAA is an organization open to both survivors and allies with the mission to destigmatize and spread awareness about sexual and gender-based violence.

To combat the Red Zone, prospective first-year students should know about SAA and the resources accessible to them and their peers.

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Peyton McKenzie
Peyton McKenzie, Creative Director

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