#YesAllWomen is taking off on Twitter right now, and if you haven’t given it a look, you should. It’s heartbreaking to hear people’s stories of feeling unsafe and unsupported even in the face of reporting sexual violence and stalking, and being denied privileges ranging from the ability to use public transit without incidence to being able to go to work and have an uneventful day. All of these stories are important and need to be heard and taken seriously. Far too many of these stories were ones I can relate to. This tweet touched on something that’s been on my mind a lot lately: Sexual violence on college campuses:
As a researcher, I’ve been a part of a project that starts to look at getting information to survivors, particularly on campuses. As a woman, I’ve experienced assault and stalking on and off college campuses, as have many of my female (and a few of my male) friends. Once I finish my dissertation, this is a research stream I want to dive into again, and Soraya’s tweet helped reinvigorate me, especially after the recent coverage FSU has gotten for its treatment of rape survivors.
So why am I posting about wanting to do this research on my blog? Because I want feedback, and right now seems like a good time to get feedback from the people I ultimately want to help. On a lot of campuses, there doesn’t seem to be much survivor-focused information that’s pushed out where people can access it easily and anonymously (and without prodding to pursue a certain course of action during their healing process). Libraries are an important part of the campus community, and are already a resource people are using (and are potentially less intimidating than other resources might feel). What I’m hoping to do is to construct a shell web resource, available without cost to university libraries, that gives survivors the information they need and can be added to by the library so local resources are also included. This way, it could be included on the library site as a desperately-needed information resource, although it should be emphasized that it will be there to point people to the things they need and provide information that is empowering and nonjudgmental, but it will not be something that turns the library into a counseling resource or anything like that. I eventually want to expand on it more to include resources for other related issues (domestic violence, mental health, etc.) and to offer resources to public libraries as well, but this is such a huge problem on college campuses that it’s important to start there.
So here’s where you come in: What do you want to see in this resource? What do you think would be helpful information to share with survivors at various stages of the healing process? I have plenty of ideas, but I want more! And while we’re at it, what other ways can information professionals (librarians and researchers like myself) be involved in bringing these conversations to light, and what kind of research can we be doing to help (hopefully) make an impact? I’m happy to hear from folks in the comments, but I also don’t want to jeopardize the privacy of any survivors (or non-survivors) who want to share their thoughts, so I’m happy to get emails as well (juliacskinner at gmail dot com). And last but not least, I want to thank everyone who has shared their stories on Twitter–you are strong and courageous for putting yourself out there, and I’m grateful that there are so many people out there inspiring and supporting one another!
One Reply to “#YesAllWomen and Making College Campuses a Safe Space”
Oddly, I am very much researching this as my dissertation, at least as an area of it (it’s a murky mess of Rape Culture is as Rape Myth Acceptances wills & Rhetoric of Rape permits social controls of women…). I spent 2+ years focusing on a totally different topic (the Democratization of Knowledge, w/a focus on Carl Sagan’s Cosmos & that style of science popularization…) bc I felt I needed to take a stand & have one part of my life, just one part, represent something untouched by the rape done to me as a child…Yet, since Feb. of this year, I have been unable to deny that what I should be doing involves confronting what was done to me, not refusing its full impact on my life. So, literally as late in this PhD game as possible, I changed gears all together (well, not really-as some of the research on acquisition of knowledge, rhetoric, discourse, and such, still fits very well). And now I am scrambling to get to a place of “research comfort” in a very short time…but I so digress.
Campus safe spaces for victims/survivors seem to vary from “this isn’t a space at all, nor is it safe” to “this is exceptional, can it be used as a national model?” with very murky in-between. This isn’t to say that I’ve not discovered research that suggests which universities are trying to implement better programs-I have-yet it is to suggest that such a prevalent issue should have had established successful programs years ago. But I am imagining a make-believe place!
Interestingly, there are initiatives that held events on campus, hosted by on-campus personnel as well as for-hire programs staff, which seem to offer discursive beginnings that may be a start to forming safer places (very willing to share this info!). What I have experiences with these events shows that a university must have an active student body willing enough to engage the material for the discourse to truly take hold. Yet, if the students are interested and move forward with want for safer-spaces (or other such programs) and the administration or faculty have no care for involvement, there is a painful disconnect that can very often shatter student motivations.
All of this is based on current research as well as my experiences in higher ed, as a faculty member (PhD Fellow), an advisor for my sorority, and as a person who has been very active in student issues for the past 12 years (mostly as an engaged student myself!). What informs my research and perceptions offered here are my experiences, most notably, a lifetime spent trying to figure out how to move past being the victim of childhood rape. Notice-I am still a victim. I am still moving through this space of transformation, always looking for safe places to assist in how I can come to terms with something done unto me, something I had no agency in deciding would define my life. But it does. And now I recognize the use for that-we build from it, and educate to create something better around us-safer and better places. Just started re-using this blog-feel free to follow-I can share whatever sources I have on the topic. I am a sloppy blogger right now-bc I am quick to get back to Twitter to lay down some #YesAllWomen-but passionate as hell about all of this (don’t earn Faculty Advisor of the Year Awards w/out passion:)