We’re the Pomona College Advocates. You may have been to one of our events or remember us from Drawing the Shades. We were founded in 2004 by a group of students responding to a need for peer survivor support on campus. Over the years, our organization has grown in scope. In addition to survivor support, we provide education and discussion opportunities with the goal of eliminating sexual violence on our campuses.
The work we do as Advocates is deeply fulfilling, but sometimes being an Advocate feels like trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon. Enacting a cultural shift in our community is hard. Before folks get to these campuses, they have had roughly 18 years to roll around in the world and pick up values and behaviors. Many people come into college with no knowledge about the issues surrounding sexual assault. We have a student body with an entire spectrum of thoughts, opinions, and experiences concerning sexual assault, some of which are more conducive to creating a culture of consent than others.
We seek to eliminate sexual assault and harassment on our campuses by providing platforms for education and discussion to shift the way that we think about sex, bodies, consent, and a host of other topics. We are all malleable creatures. This means that even though we come into college with a lot of things already stuck to us, we still have space to change. We can pick off old and problematic ways of thinking and doing and replace them with new ones.
There is a lot of work to be done, and Advocates are not the only ones who can or should be doing it. We all have the ability to shape our community into something we can stand behind and feel pride in. Across the campuses, students are mobilizing to address the dearth of resources at the 5Cs for both education about sexual assault and support for survivors. It is incredibly exciting to see the recent surge of energy around creating consent culture on our campuses. But this energy needs to manifest itself in order to enact real change. This can be anything from joining the Supporters Project to hosting a party like TAP or including messages about consent in your own party advertisements, to stepping in when you see something uncool going down at a party.
We recognize that interfering in what’s usually considered “someone else’s business” takes courage. This year, administrators from across the 5Cs are rolling out an intensive bystander intervention training program called GreenDot. If you receive an invitation, we highly recommend that you attend a session. If you’re interested in learning more about bystander intervention or want to bring a training to your organization, you can contact Chris Waugh, Ellie Ash-Balá, or Frank Bedoya. There are many ways that you can center consent culture in your life and work on campus.
Our goal is not to destroy fun. We want people to enjoy going to parties and having as much or as little consensual sex as they want. That said, much of the work that Advocates does is not fun. As easy as it might be to participate in conversations about making consent sexy or to “like” a cat meme about consent on Facebook, the serious conversations about supporting survivors on campus are equally or more important in creating a safe community. We would love to see the enthusiasm that people have for “Consent is Sexy” signs spread to supporting and providing resources for survivors on campus.
Supporting yourself, friends, or loved ones through trauma isn’t easy. Spend some time educating yourself online about Rape Trauma Syndrome, and reach out to a friend if they seem like they’re struggling. Advocates has materials and brochures for friends of survivors, too. We can also provide trainings on how to support survivors upon request. We hope that with the combined efforts of primary prevention and survivor support, led not only by Advocates but by all groups on campus, we can work toward growth and positive change with the hope of building a safe, respectful, and supportive community.
The Supporters Project website can be reached at http://tinyurl.com/supportersclaremont