The recent sexual assaults in Collegetown have sparked discussions about sexual assault, safety and awareness at Ithaca College. Students Active For Ending Rape, an organization that seeks to educate students about rape, will run a series of events to raise awareness.
Recent events have prompted SAFER to step up its advocacy efforts for victims of sexual violence, senior Jesse Maeshiro, co-president of SAFER, said. On Sept. 2, a sexual assault, an attack and a rape were reported in Collegetown. Since January 2012, there has been one report of rape and two reports of sexual misconduct on Ithaca College’s campus, according to Public Safety logs.
“It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that events like that can occur at different times and in many different circumstances,” Maeshiro said. “By starting to educate others and advocate for this issue, we can start taking steps toward creating a safer community for everyone.”
According to the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault, one in four women will become a victim of sexual assault in college. Also, on average, 50 percent of college sexual assaults involve alcohol.
SAFER was founded by students at Columbia University in 2000 as an organization to teach other students about sexual violence, rape culture and attempts to reform college sexual assault policies. The Ithaca College chapter of SAFER was created four years ago and meets at 7 p.m. Tuesdays in Williams Hall.
Senior Johanna Leister, treasurer of SAFER, said the group is vital to the college campus and works to inform the community about sexual assault as well as safety.
“We are an advocacy organization, so we are just kind of hoping to get the word out there to students and the community and to raise awareness on campus,” Leister said.
The group plans to host several events throughout the year, but the dates for the events have not been announced yet.
Later this month, SAFER is sponsoring a screening of “Welcome to the Party.” The film was a collaborative effort by Deb Beazley, the sexual assault prevention educator and resource coordinator at West Virginia University; Jerry McGonigle, a professor at West Virginia University; and Tom Nicholson, a professor of media, arts and sciences at Ithaca College. The goal of the screening is to better inform the students about the college party scene so they can make a conscious effort to be safe, Maeshiro said.
“IC Sex Behind Closed Doors,” an event taking place later in the semester, will point out the differences between sex and rape, Maeshiro said.
“We’re going to talk about sex versus rape and touch on some issues that are more sensitive and that people aren’t really willing to talk about,” she said.
The Clothesline Project will be held in the spring. Victims of sexual abuse will decorate T-shirts, and they will be hung on a clothesline on campus.
“It’s basically a vehicle for women who have been affected by this violence to express their emotions, and also just a way for other people on campus to see the shirts and learn something from the experience,” Maeshiro said.
The group focuses on educating students about victim blaming and stresses the fact that it is never the victim’s fault, regardless of the clothes they are wearing or the circumstances they are in, Maeshiro said.
Nancy Reynolds, program director for the Center for Health Promotion, said students should support groups like SAFER and become actively involved in educating themselves and others. Students should also utilize strategies like the late-night bus service and the blue lights around campus to stay safe, she said.
There are many campus support systems for victims of sexual assault: emotional support at the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services, medical support at the Hammond Health Center and other legal and safety support at the Office of Public Safety. Reynolds said the campus has to play an active part in student safety.
“The campus has an obligation to maintain a safe environment,” Reynolds said. “We all have an obligation to work together and make sure the campus is a respectful place for everybody”