Don’t be afraid to report

Sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes around the world, and Calvin’s campus is no exception. Our individual and community attitudes towards reporting and supporting those who report sexual assault can have a tremendous effect on the healing process of survivors of assault.

In Last year social work professor Rachel Venema published (?) a Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault. She found that out of all the students who disclosed they had experienced an unwanted sexual experience, a miniscule percentage reported it. A third didn’t tell anyone.

Many students responded that they “didn’t think what happened was serious enough to talk about” or “didn’t think others would think it was serious.” The reality, however, is that sexual assault includes any form of non-consensual sexual contact, including sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, dating violence and abuse and romantic or sexual relationships between people of unequal power.

Basically, if it is something that is affecting your life negatively, you have the right to report it.

The sound of “reporting” can sound intimidating. A concern for many survivors of sexual assault is the fear that they won’t have control over what happens after they report. After feeling like you’ve had control wrenched from your hands in an assault, the worst thing that could happen is to have your case mishandled.

The reporting process through Calvin’s Safer Spaces policy, however, gives the survivor the control to decide to what extent you want to pursue charges.

Actions to pursue could include accommodations in living arrangements, providing academic accommodations, enforcing a no-contact rule between involved individuals to disciplinary actions up to and including suspension or expulsion. While reporting through Safer Spaces is not the same as a criminal report, advocates will help you file a police report if that is the route you wish to take.

Many are afraid to come forward if they were breaking college policy when the assault happened, worrying that they’ll be punished. You are given amnesty if you were using drugs and alcohol at the time of the assault, however, and amnesty extends to a friend who comes in to report on behalf of a friend. The college’s first priority is your safety, not busting you for a policy violation. Really.

In addition, when you report, there will be a no-contact protection between you and the other person to make sure that you are protected throughout the process and don’t have to fear retaliation and an advocate will be available to you to be your go-to through the process and attend all meetings with you.

The Calvin community is blessed with an incredible team of supporters who do take sexual assault seriously and are committed to coming alongside survivors. You are able to report to any faculty or staff member or RA and they will take your story seriously and report it to Safer Spaces.

If you want to share your story with a completely confidential source, Broene counselors and Campus Ministry chaplains are available to walk with you through the healing process and there is no pressure to share more than you are comfortable or to report if you aren’t ready to do so.

Ultimately, whether you are a survivor of sexual assault or not, we all have the responsibility to create a culture that supports those who have and decide to stand against it.