Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Responses to the BU Task Force
There has been a lot of chatter and response pieces in regards to the BU Task Force about the hockey team. Below are two responses that I would like to share. The first is published by the BU Free Daily Press and written by a BARCC hotline volunteer, Ali, who is also a previous student at BU. The second one is by Gina, our Executive Director, and was published as an op-ed in the Boston Globe this week.
An important note that runs through both pieces is that the problem of rape at Boston University is not limited to the hockey team. While the Task Force was a good step, it does not address the changes that should be made campus-wide. Both pieces reference studies about how many women who are assaulted each year on a college campus; these estimates would be even higher if they took into consideration both male and transgender students who are also assaulted. It is also very important to keep in mind the number of offenders. Many studies, including Lisak (2002), indicate that approximately 6% of the male population will be sexually aggressive towards women and others. This data suggestst that, based on the number of undergraduate men at BU, there are over 400 who are sexually aggressive on that campus alone. Therefore, when reading future pieces about BU or any other college campus responding to sexual violence, remember to ask yourself whether the school is looking at its impact on the entire community.
To the Editor:
Recent Boston Globe articles about the findings of BU’s hockey team task force revealed serious problems within BU’s administration and student body. My freshman year at BU was atypical of what one would expect at a large, party-oriented school. I avoided parties at all costs and went home on weekends to escape drunken peers. Parties seemed too daunting and triggering; I had been sexually assaulted in October of my senior year of high school and was struggling with post-traumatic stress as I pursued charges against the former friend who assaulted me. I returned to BU after every weekend to large drawings of male genitalia on my door with an occasional offensive comment next to the drawing. I considered moving to a single-sex floor, but heard that floor had problems with students frequently having sex in the showers. Moving home seemed like the best route.
Professors to whom I disclosed my story were supportive; the administration was anything but. Thinking the housing department would appreciate my unusual circumstance, I asked the director if I could move out of my dorm and commute from home. I was initially shut down and told the director, “You don’t understand. I can’t sleep; the trial is coming up soon and living here is really detrimental to my well-being.” Coldly, she responded, “I’m sorry. We don’t do that.” Stunned, I decided against speaking with any other administrator, assuming I’d be given the same answer. My experience with BU showed me its administration valued students’ money over students’ concerns and well-being. I can’t imagine the extra challenges I would have faced if I had been assaulted by a fellow BU student.
Housing stuck to its policy of requiring students to live on campus freshman year. It was only after I submitted a doctor’s note that the officials reviewed it and allowed me to move off campus, notifying me that they could not guarantee me housing for the rest of my time at BU.
Sexual assault happens often everywhere and is entirely preventable. The U.S. Department of Justice notes that 1 in 4 college-aged women will be a victim of sexual assault during her time on campus; throughout a woman’s lifetime, that rate is 1 in 6. There is no reason to not ask a potential partner for consent or to ignore his or her response. If someone says “No,” understand and respect that. Consent is not a tricky, tangled web; it is easy to ask for and easy to respect. Colleges need to educate students on consent. Colleges must also take it upon themselves to be supportive of students who report assaults. In recent history, another Boston-area college, Tufts University, had its own sexual assault policy scrutinized. Among the reporting process, Tufts offered the option of mediation, in which the survivor and the accused could try to reach a mutually agreeable outcome. This was not a practice supported by the U.S. Department of Justice or Department of Education. This practice entirely disregarded the survivor’s need for safety and support, not to talk things out with the perpetrator.
After my freshman year at BU, I transferred and became a rape crisis counselor for a Boston-area organization. We all should get active in ending sexual violence. Sexual assault and lack of responsiveness to it is by no means a problem limited to Boston University. It’s time to stop it for good.
The Globe has been reporting on the work of the Boston University task force that was formed under the leadership of BU president Robert Brown following the arrest of two players from the men’s hockey team on sexual violence charges last spring. The problem of rape at BU does not stop with the men’s hockey team alone. As with other universities, it is a campuswide problem.
Research in 2000 by the National Institute of Justice on assaults of college women found that for every 1,000 students, 35 experience rape or attempted rape per academic year. At BU, there are about 10,000 women undergraduates, suggesting that about 350 women are assaulted each year. In 2007 the institute found that one in four college women will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape by the time they conclude four years of study. This research does not include estimates of the number of men or transgender students assaulted each year.
Victims of sexual violence during their college years will face not only the health and social issues common to survivors, but the potential of derailing their education along with their career goals and aspirations. We hope that changing the culture of the hockey team at BU is just a beginning, not the end game, as the university makes strides to address these issues on campus.
- Gina Scaramella, Executive Director