Correction: A previous version of this article misattributed the authorship of this piece. The co-authorship was misattributed to Leah Muskin-Pierret, when in fact it was co-authored by Leila Skinner. The article has been updated to reflect this change. The Daily regrets this error.
Content warning: This article discusses sexual violence.
This epidemic of rape, abuse and victim-blaming cannot continue. Multiple recent articles have highlighted how Tufts “leaves the … community vulnerable” to sexual violence, fails survivors in “both the initial acts of violence and… afterward” and describes the community’s reaction as “all too similar to the cold night in the tent city,” “vicious words… indistinguishable from [abusers’]” and “the secondary assault of your withering glares and whitewashing lies.”
The anonymity of these articles points to the lack of support for survivors of sexual violence at Tufts. When fear of retaliation makes anonymity required for disclosures, and our spaces do not welcome survivors as their whole selves, we fail to practice the values of inclusion and justice that we claim to uphold.
We must fight back against campus sexual violence.
We must point out and dispel the myths that surround sexual violence. Alcohol, mixed signals, lack of clarity and societal norms are no excuse for assault. Consent must always be freely given, reversible, informed, enthusiastic and specific. It cannot be obtained through coercion or from someone who is incapacitated. Consent is necessary for non-sexual touching as well as sexual activity.
We must learn how to intervene as bystanders and act to prevent sexual violence. Tufts Green Dot’s three bystander intervention tactics are Direct, Delegate, and Distract. An example of direct intervention is explaining to the aggressor the impact of their actions. Another intervention tactic could be causing a distraction, such as spilling a drink or starting a different conversation with one of the people involved in the situation. Finally, delegating involves enlisting other bystanders or event monitors to take action where you may be less able to do so. This range of intervention methods allows any bystander to take action in whatever way is best suited for their comfort level and specific situation.
We must challenge anti-survivor sentiment everywhere we go. We cannot tolerate this rape culture in spaces where we hold power. We cannot allow those who cause harm to avoid accountability. Our collective failure to take action has emboldened some to perpetrate without consequences and discouraged survivors from seeking the support they need. Ninety-four percent of those who experienced sexual violence at Tufts did not report the incident to the Office of Equal Opportunity, according to a survey conducted in 2017. Male perpetrators are “more likely to commit sexual violence in communities where sexual violence goes unpunished.” Neutrality and inaction have allowed rape culture to flourish. We cannot let this continue.
We must own our mistakes and learn from them. We may not be able to prevent every assault, or immediately transform Tufts culture into one that supports survivors, but we should work towards these goals.
The best way to move forward from here is to show support for survivors and work to change the culture at Tufts and beyond. Though no space at Tufts is free or safe from sexual assault perpetration, we are also armed and capable with the skills and resources to work to end this epidemic and move our outrage towards action. Use your feelings of anger and frustration to organize the groups and communities you’re involved with to take action. Start conversations with your friends, such as by asking, “how can you make sure your casual pregames are safe for everyone?” or “how can you check-in with each other both at events and after to make sure everyone is feeling safe and secure?” Take those conversations even further. Writing Codes of Conduct for your organizations, as well as completing trainings and workshops in bystander intervention, responding to disclosures and responding to perpetration are great places to start. Don’t let your anger fade, but instead use it to create a safer campus for everyone at Tufts and ensure that survivors are feeling safe and heard.
This support means listening to those in your community who have stepped forward and are taking on the burden of public acknowledgment. It means not succumbing to rumors, but taking them as testimony. Validate the survivor’s narrative and tell them you believe them. Be that support when society and many others may not be providing it. It means following the survivor’s wishes, using their language and helping them as they seek their form of justice. It could mean your social circles change. Know when to offer other resources on campus to the survivor: the Center for Awareness, Resources, and Education office is a great place to start. Make sure to know and think about your own limits and boundaries as well.
The author of the Tier Town articles pointed out that “the ‘support’ in ‘support survivors’ is a verb. It requires more than saying that you are supportive. It means not wallowing in complicit inaction or neutrality. It means holding perpetrators and enablers accountable. It means taking action in the pursuit of safety and justice.”
We must do better. It’s not an impossible ask to urge the Tufts community to not allow perpetrators to go unchecked and survivors to struggle without support. There is no perfect way to support survivors and end the cycle of victim-blaming. Simply believing survivors and offering them comfort is the “support” that we urge you to join us in adding to the community at Tufts.