I was sexually assaulted at Haverford. I said no, and he said, “I thought you were sexually liberated?” and did it anyway. In the days and weeks following, I struggled understand what had happened. I joined SOAR, our campus sexual assault support group, and I heard the same stories time and time again: my partner didn’t listen, my partner didn’t ask what I wanted, I felt like it was my fault, I was heard but not heard. In response to these narratives, I begin to wonder what about Haverford normalizes sexual violence.
In mainstream American society, women are supposed to be the gatekeepers of sex and men are supposed to be the aggressors. This assumption that men always want sex both silences male survivors and makes a “fine” or a “whatever” sound more like a “yes.” This is a problem, and it happens at Haverford all the time.
This campus needs to have a serious conversation about sexual assault. I don’t mean the cute little panels where the deans get up and talk about “The Circle.” I mean a real conversation. An open, honest conversation. One about gender, sexuality, social dynamics, violence, power, alcohol, culture, agency, beliefs, and policies at Haverford, because all of these elements contribute to sexual violence on this campus. A conversation that recognizes that both survivors and perpetrators of sexual violence can be either men or women.
This is not a conversation about complying with federal regulations under Title IX; it is a conversation about going beyond them. Our Honor Code, Alcohol Policy, and campus drinking culture already strive to go above and beyond traditional thinking about what students can achieve through mutual trust, concern, and respect. Why not our sexual assault policy and social culture too?
Amy Stillwell, HC ’12