Students gathered in the church-chapel for convocation last Wednesday to discuss the impact of sexual violence on Goshen College’s campus.
The convocation was inspired by the #MeToo campaign — a movement started originally by civil rights activist Tarana Burke in 2006, but popularized by actress Alyssa Milano following the sexual violence accusations against Harvey Weinstein during the fall of 2017. Many women posted the hashtag #MeToo on social media, often with an added story of sexual violence they experienced.
Beth Martin Birky, Title IX deputy coordinator and professor of English, made it clear that while the #MeToo campaign was often used to share experiences of sexual violence, the convocation would not feature stories of survivors but instead offer reporting information. Birky recommended other spaces for this type of dialogue, like the Survivor Support Network or Goshen College Monologues happening this Saturday night.
Ken Newbold, provost and executive vice president, opened the convocation by stating that Goshen College is not immune to sexual assault.
“Sexual assault, gender-based harassment, misconduct and assault happens at Goshen College,” Newbold said. “We must continue to address these topics.”
An update of the results of Goshen College’s Title IX investigation was also made by Newbold: “[GC] was found to have deficiencies and weaknesses in [its] policies and structures, specifically related to training.”
These issues, as found by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (ORC), have been addressed by the campus, according to Newbold. An anti-harassment statement was made, as well as a new Title IX policy. The efforts were sent to ORC and upon approval, the statement and policy will be implemented on GC’s campus.
Next, Birky took the stage to explain the reporting process of sexual violence on GC’s campus looks like for survivors of sexual violence.
“If you are a survivor, do remember it is not your fault,” Birky said. “Nothing that anyone does to you in terms of violence is your fault. You do have choices — you can take whatever steps you need at whatever pace….The path looks different for every person.”
The convocation was not planned in hopes of forcing survivors to report, but instead inform survivors that reporting is an option, according to Birky.
To file a report, individuals can go to https://www.goshen.edu/sexual-assault/. Birky suggested that everyone look at the “Sexual Assault & Misconduct” page on GC’s website.
Birky went on to mention the faculty and staff members on campus who can help survivors process their experience without having to report the incident. These persons include: Faculty Advocate Regina Shands Stoltzfus, on-campus counselors Lynette Showalter, Conrad Showalter and Nancy Rodriguez Lora, and campus pastors Reverend LaKendra Hardware and Gwen Gustafson-Zook.
Kendra Yoder, associate professor of social work and Prevention Intervention Network (PIN) advisor, also spoke.
With 33 educators, PIN is hoping to “change culture before incidents of sexual violence and harassment start.” Their mission is accomplished through presentations in classes such as Identity, Culture and Community, which all first-year students are required to take.
“We have the power to shape our campus into a safe and supportive space,” Yoder said. “[PIN seeks] to eradicate rape culture and stop sexual violence, harassment and rape by empowering bystanders to actively prevent and intervene in potentially harmful situations.”
Two PIN educators, first-years Madeline Kauffman and Evan Kraybill, answered a few frequently asked questions, such as “What is the purpose of reporting?” They also informed the audience that a clearer sexual misconduct information poster is in the works.
Then, senior Hanna Hochstetler invited any student who has experienced sexual violence to the Survivor Support Network. Hochstetler said the main focus of the group is self-care.
“We recognize that there might be times where someone needs to process their experience and that’s OK,” Hochstetler said. “We want it to be an open space where you can share what you need to get off your chest. But, at the same time, we recognize that there might be other survivors who may feel triggered. There’s an understanding that you can step in and out of the space.”
Birky concluded the convocation with a list of events that students can attend related to the prevention of sexual violence.
“My hope is that if we are able to raise up our awareness about reporting, the more people can report their experiences,” Birky said. “The more people can find support,… seek resolution… and healing.”