Students at both Scripps College and Pitzer College are working to start support groups for victims of sexual assault similar to Pomona College’s Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault.
Advocates is a student-run organization that provides confidential support to victims of sexual violence, including a 24-hour crisis hotline.
“It takes calls from anyone at the 5Cs, but we figured there was necessary service at Scripps that was lacking,” said Theresa Iker SC ’14, Secretary of Scripps Associated Students (SAS).
Iker also sits on the Sexual Assault Advocacy and Resources Committee at Scripps and is a member of SAS’s sexual assault committee.
“There was dissatisfaction expressed among students about the ambience of the Dean of Students office,” she said. “People felt uncomfortable about the idea of reporting, so we felt that a student group similar to Pomona Advocates that was a non-reporting institution that was only designed for student support would be necessary.”
Iker said that Scripps’s group, which will be independent of the College and SAS, will hopefully be running next semester, although she emphasized that they are still in the planning stage.
Cry Mathieson PZ ’15, one of approximately 10 students trying to get an Advocates-type group started at Pitzer, hopes that Pitzer’s group will also get off the ground next semester.
Mathieson has been in contact with Pitzer and administrators, and ze and other students are looking to apply to be a club soon.
Both Iker and Mathieson have met with members of Advocates at Pomona to work on planning their groups. Mathieson said they are using Pomona’s group as a model.
Pomona’s group, which was started in 2004, employs both a voicemail system that is checked twice a day and a 24-hour pager system, said Natalie Daifotis PO ’15, who is in her second year as an Advocate. With the pager system, which was implemented last semester, an Advocate and a backup are on call at all times and will respond to calls within five minutes.
Advocates also focus on education and outreach projects such as lectures and workshops.
“I think it does make a statement to have a physical group like Advocates on campus, and it does help for bringing awareness of sexual assault and the issues underlying sexual assault to the students’ vocabularies and conversations,” said Zach Schudson PO ’13, who has been an Advocate for three years.
He said that establishing similar resources at the other colleges is an important step.
“All of our colleges are separate and distinct, but they’re also kind of fluid, and when you have the lack of resources at other places, it’s a deficit that everyone feels,” he said.
“It is vital, in my opinion, that there is a 5C support network for survivors,” Daifotis said. “It does not make sense when the social scene and the world we live in here in Claremont is five-college and how there is a resource that only exists at one school that every school needs.”
Only students from Pitzer and Scripps have approached the Pomona Advocates expressing an interest in starting a similar group, Daifotis said.
Mohammad Abdul-Rahim CM ’15, the Student Life Chair of Associated Students of Claremont McKenna College (ASCMC) said that ASCMC has no plans to start an Advocates-like group. He said that whether that becomes a project for the student government depends on who is elected to office next year.
Josiah Gaskin HM ’13, president of Associated Students of Harvey Mudd College (HMC), said that the student government has not recently discussed sexual violence and that the issue is handled by HMC’s Dean of Students office. A member of the Dean of Students Office at HMC was not available for comment.
Daifotis, Iker, and Mathieson all said they hope that the groups can continue collaborating as the Scripps and Pitzer groups get started.
“Ideally, my hope for the trajectory for how this will go is that eventually there will be groups on all five campuses, and eventually I would love it to be a 5C organization,” Daifotis said.
Iker said that somewhere down the line she would like to see a “single comprehensive system with a single faculty point-person who works with Dean of Students offices.”
Daifotis also said that she hopes there will be faculty involved in the future.
“It’s actually a dream of ours … to have somebody here on a part-time or full-time basis to directly supervise sort of survivor support things happening at the 5Cs,” Daifotis said. “That will become closer to reality if we do have groups on all five campuses and eventually if it does become 5C.”
According to annual reports prepared by Campus Safety, a total of seven forcible sex offenses were reported at the consortium in 2011: five at CMC and two at Pomona. Daifotis, Iker, and Mathieson all spoke about the problem of underreporting.
“It’s grossly underreported,” Iker said. “I can count more sexual assaults that I’ve heard this semester of people that I know.” However, she added, “I want to stress that I don’t think that reporting is the issue. I think that there’s often a tendency to try to push survivors in the direction of reporting to serve some abstract idea of justice, but I don’t think that that’s always best. Often the process of reporting, whether it’s through the school or through the court, is really traumatic.”
Scripps Advocates would be a group that would be completely neutral on the presentation of the options about reporting,” she said. “We wouldn’t sway in either direction.”
Pomona’s Advocates does not mandate reporting, and Mathieson hopes that Pitzer’s group would not either.
Mathieson also pointed out that sexual assault is not always physical.
“Verbal violence … can be just as traumatizing when it takes you into a flashback,” ze said. Ze added that Pitzer’s group would aim to help those who have undergone any type of sexual abuse.
In planning the support groups, both Scripps and Pitzer students are also working to be a resource for LGBT students.
“Not everyone’s heterosexual, not everyone’s experiencing heterosexual rape,” Mathieson said. “It’s something really important to take note of.”
Mathieson said that Pitzer’s group will help meet the needs of LGBT students by “not talking about rape as solely penetrative.”
“It’s just making that a natural part of the conversation,” ze said.
Schudson, who also works at the 5C Queer Resource Center (QRC), said that it is important to confront stereotypical narratives about sexual assault.
“There’s, of course, the stranger in the alley one, which is the one that most people know that does not describe most sexual assaults that are happening,” he said. “There’s the college one that involves alcohol and parties and a young man assaulting a young woman. These narratives definitely describe a lot of people’s experiences, and they’re valuable in that way, but they’re also very limiting.”