Pomona Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault organized Survivor Support Week, beginning on April 2, to enhance awareness and support for survivors of sexual, domestic, and intimate partner violence.
The week included discussions and exhibitions, some of which centered around federal policies on sexual assault under Trump and the 5C community’s accountability for sexual assault on campus, as well as art shows, dance workshops, and storytelling sessions for survivors to freely disclose their experiences and receive emotional support from peers. In addition, the Take Back the Night March invited the community to gather and celebrate support for survivors of sexual assault.
Students that attended the Community Accountability Discussion session said that these discussions should be happening in every organization on campus, not just with the Pomona Advocates, in order to further foster an attitude of intolerance towards perpetrators of sexual assault.
Throughout the week, Pomona Advocates facilitated various discussions in order to create safe spaces for survivors to disclose their experiences and trauma. The advocates stressed the need to normalize sexual assault awareness and support dialogue.
Advocate Micayla Calloway PO ’18 helped organize the second annual Survivor Support Week.
“Last year, I came into the Pomona Advocates noticing that they didn’t know how to reconcile organizing events and direct survivor support,” Calloway said. “Which one should we prioritize since the institution is doing neither?”
Calloway said that the Advocates don’t have the capability to organize events and provide direct survivor support all of the time, which led to the establishment of Survivor Support Week.
Fellow Pomona Advocate Emily Coffin PO '19 said survivor support should emphasize addressing rape culture on campus with an activist mindset.
“It’s not enough to handle situations as they occur rather than promoting a culture that condemns them to begin with,” Coffin said.
Despite the relatively recent emergence of Survivor Support Week, Calloway noted a large increase in participation and involvement from the student body during this year’s support week.
Calloway attributes this to her belief that the Claremont Colleges community would benefit and connect most with vocal, persistent events. Moreover, Coffin believed that many individuals on campus viewed this week as their opportunity to jump in and be active members of the community.
“This year’s programming has been more intentional to call out and call in certain members and organizations of the community that have taken a stance that have not necessarily been active with these issues and giving them space to finally engage,” Coffin said.
Coffin explained that publicly identifying as a survivor often feels invisible, giving the impression that people don’t feel a responsibility or an obligation to care.
“Increasing the visibility of survivors on campus, presence of these issues on campus, presence of these issues within [students’] own organizations allow us to really draw people in and hold this entire community accountable for its actions,” Coffin said.
Coffin then further explained the importance of Survivor Support Week to the Pomona Advocates:
“The vision and the mission of our organization in particular is to protect survivors, and to have that at the core is very crucial to event planning and to be considerate of the needs and wants of survivors and developing an event program where the space, discourse, and material that are being distributed are in the best interests for survivors.”
When asked about her motivation to be in Pomona Advocates, Calloway said that she became a survivor during her first week at Pomona. After the incident, she assumed that no one cared because there was no vocal or visible support from the school or the community.
“It’s such an isolating community to be in and I wanted to make sure that it was no longer isolating, and that there is a community that will welcome you and that will help you,” Calloway said.
Calloway and Coffin both agreed that survivor support week was what they wanted to leave behind after graduating. Both believe that effectively fostering and normalizing conversation about survivors will require not only a shift in the mindset of the students but also the administration.
“Our mission for Survivor Support Week is to construct a visible network of support and resources for survivors on campus and to continue the ongoing conversation about rape culture and systemic issues surrounding sexual violence,” advocate Sophia Bax PO '20 wrote in an email to TSL.