Three bathrooms on Pitzer College’s campus were found marked with the names of people considered by the writers to be “perpetrators of rape culture” and “perpetrators of sexual assault” on Oct. 26.
According to Sachi Watase PZ ’17, a member of Pitzer Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault, a survivor-centric organization that sustains a dialogue about sexual assault and rape culture on campus, Pitzer’s facilities department painted over these messages, but they were put up again the next day. Advocates acknowledged that the messages could be potentially triggering, and offered themselves as a source of support in an Oct. 26 email to students.
“The danger of being confronted with the name of a past assaulter in this manner has the potential to be extremely re-traumatizing and we want to encourage cognizance of this reality,” they wrote in the email.
Pitzer Title IX Coordinator Corinne Vorenkamp wrote in an email to TSL that her initial concern upon learning of the writings was ensuring that students are aware of resources for survivors of sexual assault and how to access them.
“I also was concerned because anonymous naming of alleged perpetrators in bathrooms is not the appropriate platform for important dialogue about sexual assault, nor does it establish accountability or create preconditions necessary for change,” she wrote.
Vorenkamp wrote in an email to students on Oct. 26 that the secret naming of alleged perpetrators was unfair to students and contrary to Pitzer’s core values.
“The voices of victims and survivors of sexual assault are important, and we need to work together to ensure there is a safe space for them to be heard,” she wrote.
On Nov. 1, Advocates held a meeting “open to the whole community to come and talk about what is rape culture and share how they feel about this entire event,” according to Watase. This meeting differed from the previous meeting on Oct. 26, in that the Oct. 26 meeting “was centered around being a safe space for people who wanted to talk about and were triggered by it and by the fact that it was erased.”
During the meeting, students discussed what rape culture looks like, and the topics of power dynamics, toxic masculinity, and victim blaming were brought to the forefront of their conversation. One student attributed the cause of sexual assault to the perpetuation of rape culture.
“I think a huge problem is that, because of rape culture, people think that they can get away with rape, and they often do,” she said.
At the meeting, students said that rape culture is a common occurrence on Pitzer’s campus, and that people do not acknowledge that it could be a problem. Some students said that the Pitzer community wanted to be socially aware and focused on restorative justice, but that “we don’t know how to bring those together in a way where everyone is heard.”
Some students at the event criticized Vorenkamp’s letter, saying that it was potentially triggering in its defense of alleged perpetrators of rape culture.
According to Vorenkamp, her response was prompted by the context of her position, as Title IX protects all students from discrimination, and the messages in bathrooms potentially constituted harassment on the basis of sex. All students deserve “a right to personal safety and equal access to education on campus” and “any actions that undermine that right for anyone must be addressed,” Vorenkamp wrote in an email to TSL.
However, Vorenkamp also expressed the desire to make sure that students reach out to her about concerns with rape culture or sexual misconduct on campus.
“I want to hear your concerns and experiences so that we can more effectively stop and prevent sexual assault while also ensuring that Pitzer’s campus climate is safe for everyone, and that everyone has a voice in it,” she wrote.
According to Watase, members of the Pitzer community must learn how to educate themselves.
“I think people must realize that our whole community is responsible for combatting rape culture. It can’t just be a select few—it’s the community’s obligation to do that,” she said.
Vorenkamp agreed with Watase, adding that both the nation and the college need to work to prevent rape culture.
“Rape culture perpetuates acceptance of sexual assault by normalizing it (“boys will be boys,” or that’s “just locker-room talk,”), and by blaming and silencing survivors,” she wrote.
According to Lopez, it is important for a community to be productive and collaborative when it comes to a discussion of rape culture.
“As a community, we want to come together to accomplish a framework for rape culture, which can be intimidating,” she said.
This article was corrected on Nov. 18, 2016. It originally stated that five bathrooms were found marked with names of alleged “perpetrators of rape culture.”