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Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

The red zone

The red zone

Author: Addie Lawrence, Editor

Wofford is in the red zone, the time period between the start of fall semester and Thanksgiving break where sexual assaults occur with the highest frequency. One in five women experience sexual assault in college, according to the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, and though men are assaulted with less frequency, they can still be victims.

According to Matthew Hammett, a Title IX deputy coordinator and assistant dean of students for student involvement, these assaults often go unreported.

“We know statistically that it’s happening at a more rapid rate this time of year, but we also know that sexual assaults are the most underreported crime in the world,” Hammett says. “Sometimes I think we’re hearing about it, sometimes I think we’re not.”

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Senior Katherine Buchanan served on a student-run committee that evaluated student involvement and needs on campus during the 2015 spring semester. Buchanan says the committee was part of a larger student movement to change the conversation surrounding sexual assault on campus, led in part by alumni Courtney Parsons and Vivian Lewis.

Though the committee no longer exists, Buchanan says it’s important for student leaders to clarify that there are no blurred lines between rape and consensual sex.

“Unfortunately I’ve had friends who’ve been sexually assaulted, and I’m freely hurt and offended by it,” she says. “I’ve become rudely aware of the reality of it on our campus, and this is a way to combat that culture.”

“There needs to be a student- led conversation, because as students, we need to say ‘this is not acceptable on our campus,’ and ‘this is something that will not be tolerated,’” she says.

The committee, initiated by Campus Union, supported events and talks to raise awareness about sexual assault and begin a “conversation” on campus, Buchanan says. Additionally, the committee pushed to replace the mandatory freshman workshop, Sex Signals, with Only with Consent.

“(Sex Signals) minimalizes sexual assault, and it makes it something that’s funny,” she says. “And it’s an awkward conversation to have, especially when we’re just entering (Wofford), but it’s something that needs to be taken very seriously…because it can affect someone’s life and livelihood on our campus.”

According to Hammett, sexual assault can be “traumatic” for survivors, especially when colleges fail to support them. One case is detailed in “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary centered on Erica Kinsman and Florida State University’s inability to support her that will be shown on campus.

“I think it’s easy to see where institutions have not done the right thing,” Hammett says. “For a number of reasons, they made some poor decisions and mishandled sexual misconduct cases.”

According to Hammett and fellow deputy coordinator Demario Watts, Wofford studies other institutions, and the administration attends conferences to better handle cases of sexual misconduct. Additionally, Wofford consults lawyers who wrote Title IX when dealing with legal cases.

Recent changes to Title IX include the definition of sexual misconduct, which now reads:

“Sexual misconduct is any act of a sexual nature perpetrated against an individual without effective consent or when an individual is unable to freely give consent. Sexual misconduct includes, but is not limited to, rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation and relationship violence.”

In the case of sexual misconduct, Hammett says the first step is getting to a safe place and contacting campus safety. Evidence, if any, should be preserved, and victims should refrain from bathing if they intend to report.

The second step is seeking support – wherever that may be. Students can speak in confidentiality with counselors in the Wellness Center or Safe Homes Rape Crises Coalition if a student does not wish to use Wofford’s resources.

“Talk with someone and to get that support,” Hammett says. “Whether it’s on or off campus, and if it’s on campus then recognizing that we have counselors and individuals at the college that can take that information and have it remain confidential. It’s not going to go to a criminal matter unless they want it to.”

Students can contact these resources in the event of sexual misconduct.
Students can contact these resources in the event of sexual misconduct.

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