We Need To Talk About… An Uneducated, Divided Community

AMANDA CIROCCO

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When we hear the following words: rape, sexual assault, or Title IX, what do we know or associate these terms with?

We tell men not to be rapists. We tell women to not dress like “they want it.” It’s not possible for a man to dress like a slut. A woman isn’t powerful enough to actually rape a man. All men are strong and violent. All women are sexy and promiscuous. These stereotypes and stigmas sound familiar, right?

On April 6, I created a survey through Survey Monkey for the students of Manhattanville College to fill out in regards to sexual assault. This survey was posted throughout different social media channels and distributed to athletes via e-mail from their assistant coaches. A total of 42 students participated in the survey. Students were also allowed to identify, if they wished, their gender, commuter/ resident status and whether or not they are student- athletes. Almost 50% of those who participated were student-athletes.

If there is one thing that is safe, it is to say there is a clear separation amongst the community. So, let’s talk.

Over 1⁄4 of those who participated in this survey were unable to identify any of the Title IX officials at Manhattanville. The Title IX Officials at Manhattanville College are: Donna Eddleman, Sharlise Smith- Rodriguez, Stephanie Carcano, and Julene Fisher, according to the College website.

When it comes to the qualifications of being a Title IX official, the answers were scattered. While the common responses included some form of training, one respondent noted “some background in law or politics.” In an interview with Eddleman and Judith Spain, they noted there isn’t any prerequisites of a law background for becoming a Title IX official. They do need to have “soft skills,” such as objectiveness and confidence. However, Eddleman and Spain stated officials go through ATIXA (Association of Title IX Administrators), an extensive training program for Title IX officials.

The confusion continued when the respondents were asked to define Title IX; over 1⁄4 of those “did not know” how to define it. Title IX is not any of these responses that some respondents stated in the survey: “girls needing equality,” “equal rights for women,” or “unwanted sex” —that is rape.

The correct definition of Title IX is: a federal law that states “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” In shorter terms, Title IX prohibits sexual discrimination against students at schools receiving federal aid, which is the large majority of schools.

On the other hand, students have a pretty good sense of what rape culture is. Students noted rape culture is “normalizing it,” “a society that trivializes sexual assault,” “downplaying of rape,” and “delegitimizes the pain of victims.”

Students voiced their opinions of what they consider to be a stigma or stereotype that is associated with sexual assault on college campuses, and they didn’t hold back. The general consensus noted stigmas such as victim blaming, alcohol being involved, men are rapists, and that girls are asking for it by the way they dress. Some specific stereotypes that students responded with were “she was asking for it” and “men aren’t capable of being raped.”

Alyssa Scanga, a member of the women’s lacrosse team stated, “I truly believe that a man could be sexual assaulted just as easy as a woman can. I believe people underestimate the impact that sexual assault can have of men… I think people view women as more sensitive subjects, which is so wrong- men and women should be viewed as equal victims in the situation.”

While it is known that females are more likely to be sexually assaulted, 1 in 16 men will be sexually assaulted in college according to statistics provided by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. The public rarely sees media coverage of male sexual-assault victims.

 

On April 24, I presented to Title IX Coordinator and President for Student Affairs, Donna Eddleman, a then available PDF “Reduce Your Risk of Rape,” presented by the College that could have been seen as continuing the myth that only women are sexual assault victims. The PDF stated the following:

“Rape can affects[sic] all women, no ma er what their age, race or economic status. All women are potential victims of sexual assault. By being aware, a woman can reduce the likelihood of becoming a rape victim.”

After showing her the document, the PDF was immediately removed and shows that the College is persistent about taking action towards implementing a proper education about the issue. It’s unknown how long this PDF was online.

The last question in the survey asked students to give their opinions about how much awareness and education Manhattanville provides about Title IX and sexual assault. There was little division in the responses. More than 90% of students noted that the College either does a poor job or that there “needs to be more.” The larger issue I found is that students voiced their opinion that it is only an education targeted for student-athletes.

Eddleman noted that student- athletes are mandated to be present for the workshop, athletes view a lm and have a conversation afterwords. Athletes also must sign a document stating they’ve gone through the training. Non-student-athletes are not required to go through this workshop. Haven, the educational online survey about sexual assault is mandated for all students of the College to participate in.

“As a fall athlete, when we come in to pre-season we get good training on Title IX, however that is the only time we ever as athletes and students receive training, and it is never refreshed. I wouldn’t know if, or how non-athletes are educated or trained about Title IX, but it seems like they are not,” said four-year women’s soccer player Melissa Barcia.

One of the respondents stated in the survey, “when I didn’t play a sport I didn’t even know it (Title IX) existed until I played.”

Junior Mary Felice who is majoring in Sociology with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies, is the secretary for “Breaking The Silence (BTS).” The club was created in 2014, whose mission is to end sexual assault and domestic violence on college campuses. Felice stated “our school needs to have more education on sexual assault implemented.”

Another student who participated in the survey claimed that “if it wasn’t for the exposure that came out on campus this semester… students wouldn’t know rape goes on on this campus.”

BTS has held events throughout the semesters such as having guest speaker/ authors, a Survivor’s Panel and every year they host “Galentines Day,” which was taken from the show “Parks and Rec,” and is an event that involves “ladies celebrating ladies.”

Felice stated that some events have had better turn-outs audience wise. The audience depends on each event and how it was marketed to the community. Felice noted events like open mic and the Slut Walk have attracted larger crowds, but some events had only 5-10 people show up. Eddleman also noted that less than 10 people were in the audience for the Survivor’s Panel that was held during Sexual Assault Awareness Week.

“As long as our message is ge ing out to anyone, we’re doing our job right. It’s a hard topic to get people to listen to, so we’re grateful for anyone that does listen,” said Felice.

Felice mentioned that several people have told her they were unaware that BTS existed. One of the club’s main goals is to make it more well known so they can reach a broader audience next year. Felice stated, “I’ve a talked to numerous people who know nothing on this topic, which shows how little education our campus provides.”

Felice noted that most recently there has been a play performed on consent at freshman orientation and that there are “plenty of flyers about resources if you ever experience any type of assault on campus. However,Manhattanville does not offer much else on the issue of sexual assault.” Eddleman stated that it is planned for the play to be performed for incoming freshmen this coming fall and discussed the possibility of guest speakers to come to the College during future semesters.

Ultimately, Felice believes the way Manhattanville has dealt with the issue of sexual assault on campus has been “unsatisfactory,” and that “we need to do a better job at keeping our students safe, and that starts with educating people on said issue.”After Gaulin’s allegations went public this semester, Felice and the board members of BTS are currently “working on things that are making an effort to implement change on this campus, so individuals will hopefully see this next semester.”

It’s clear that there is a discrepancy in Title IX education amongst the student body in regards to sexual assault. While the e-mails, posters, and online surveys haven’t seemed to educate the student body as well as they have intended, it is the responsibility of the students to participate in the events held on campus.

The general consensus is that Manhattanville needs to do more about educating its students. The biggest challenge the College now faces is whether or not supporting Title IX events and workshops should be mandatory for all students. We’ll just have to wait and see.