The Disappointment of CMC’s Not-So-Safe Haven

When I first got the email about
Claremont McKenna College’s new required online sexual violence prevention program, I cancelled my dinner plans and sat
down to do it immediately. This program, Haven, comes from EverFi, the same
education company that created the AlcoholEdu course incoming freshmen
have been required to complete for the past few years. Haven, which took me a
little more than an hour to complete, addresses sexual assault, intimate partner
violence, stalking and ways to prevent and address the effects of all of these
issues.

Honestly, I was nervous to do Haven.
CMC doesn’t have a great track
record on issues of sexual violence. I know plenty of people who have been
scared to report incidents of sexual assault based on fear of the
administration mishandling it. Of the people I know who did report the assault,
few, if any, were satisfied with the results.

Punishments
for rapists and sexual predators have been few and far between, and generally
amount to little more than a slap on the wrist. So when CMC announced a
required course on preventing sexual violence, I was worried that it would be
heteronormative at best and riddled with victim-blaming at worst.

To the credit of both CMC and
EverFi, Haven was mostly inoffensive and even useful. It did a good job of both
explaining that sexual violence can happen between people of any gender and
that despite this possibility, the aggressors in situations with victims of any
gender are almost always men.

But
some parts of the program, such as one video that featured a young man talking
to the camera as he described an interaction he had once had with some
teammates, were troubling.

The
teammates were making sexist and derogatory comments, and the young man asked
them to stop, explaining that women don’t want to hang out with guys who act
that way. I recognize that getting young men to talk to their peers about
sexism and sexual violence in a relatable way is an important part of
prevention, but I reject the notion that the reason men shouldn’t be sexist or
violent is because women won’t
want to hang out with or sleep with them.

Men
should not avoid being sexist or commit acts of sexual violence because it will make
women want to date them. Men shouldn’t be sexist or rape people because
women are human beings who deserve respect and safety. A man who doesn’t rape women
because he wants to get laid is not particularly less threatening to me than an
out-and-out rapist.

I believe that mandating the Haven
program and bringing resources like Teal Dot training to campus are genuine
good-faith efforts on the part of CMC and the other Claremont Colleges to stop
sexual and power-based violence on our campuses. At the Teal Dot bystander intervention
training seminar I attended a few days ago, the instructor told the audience
that, according to a survey distributed to students at all 5Cs last spring,
22.2 percent of respondents reported having been victims of sexual violence in the
past year. This is approximately on par with national averages, though even one
incident of sexual violence is one too many.

The
problem with Haven is that it is
much too easy to ignore, while for many of us at the Claremont Colleges, the
threat and effects of sexual violence are impossible to get away from.

The
administration has claimed that those who fail to complete Haven in a timely
manner will be unable to register for second-semester classes until they do so.
I doubt that this will be uniformly enforced as I have talked my way into
being allowed to register despite being ostensibly prevented from doing so by
lacking an adviser signature and my absentminded parents forgetting to
send a tuition payment on time.

I also worry that the only people
who actually paid attention are people like me, people who already know a great
deal about sexual violence prevention and were looking for a refresher or to
check for any potentially offensive elements in the program. Back when I did
AlcoholEdu, I just muted all the videos, watched Netflix in another window, and
clicked when prompted to click. I didn’t actually pay attention or absorb
much information, and I know many other people did the same. I’m worried that
people took the same approach with Haven.

Even if the school does enforce
Haven completion, it will be little more than a band-aid. As long as CMC
continues to make the reporting process difficult and painful and continues to
allow rapists to get away with few or no consequences, no Internet education course
will significantly change our culture. CMC needs real change, not just a few
quizzes and videos. 

Liat Kaplan CM ’17 is a literature major from St. Paul, Minn.

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