By Janelle Thompson, Courtesy of The Women’s Center
On December 16th 2012, a young woman (age 23) and her friend were heading home from the movies on what they believed to be a public bus in New Delhi. During the course of the ride, both were beaten savagely and the woman was fatally gang raped by five men. The two were then kicked off of the bus without their clothing and left to die by the roadside. The attack was one of such violence that it sparked a massive political and social outcry against the treatment of women around the world. Women and men alike, anguished by the events and lack of social justice, took to protesting in the streets, hoping to incite legislative change. In the past month, the story has transcended the channels of media as a somber example of the plight of women everywhere, and prompted me to consider our school’s approach to dealing with the issue of rape and abuse.
Here on campus, it is important for students to feel secure and have the support of the administration and faculty when difficult situations arise; whether it is sexual assault or an array of other issues that might compromise our safety. We have the right to a worry free environment that supports us academically, stimulates us intellectually, and protects us physically. In the past, other educational institutions like Amherst have failed to effectively address the issue of sexual assault on their campuses. The victims of rape were mistrusted or silenced by the faculty members who they turned to for help. Angie Epifano, a former Amherst student brought the issue of sexual misconduct on college campuses to the forefront by sharing her experiences. After being raped by an acquaintance in her dorm room, Angie wrote about the administration’s refusal to pursue her claim, revealing that they were reluctant to tarnish the record of her offender, who was a graduating senior that year. Maintaining the school’s pristine reputation evidently held more weight than disclosing a serious problem that several students contend with. Stories like Angie’s are all too common. 1 in 5 college women are sexually assaulted before they graduate, and 90 percent of rape victims know their attacker.
By being open with one another and fostering close friendships with our peers, we can establish social anchors that will be there in times of need. The College has many resources on campus that are available to help students charter a course through difficult situations: counselors, resident advisors, and Women’s Center staff. They are all great to talk to about personal concerns no matter how trivial they seem. The Women’s Center is also available to assist victims of sexual assault between the hours of 4:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. on Sundays through Thursdays or 7:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Our compassionate staff members are trained to take student information relating to sexual misconduct, offer support, and make referrals.
To hear about student experiences with sexual assault on this campus, you can visit Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA) at http://14daysgettysburgwordpress.com/stories/. For students interested in outreach and assisting others, there is a great program called Survivors Inc. that helps the victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. Gettysburg students now have the opportunity to work with these men, women and children, and make a difference within their lives. So remember the story of the student gang-raped in India or the mistreatment of the Amherst victims. Let SASA be a reminder, because we are all responsible as friends, as brothers, as daughters, and as students. We can see when something is being done and we have the choice to do something positive about it.