What is rape culture, you ask? In the shortest definition I know how to give, rape culture exists when a society creates the conditions in which rape occurs, and normalizes these conditions, so that sexual violence is not only common but also virtually impossible to prevent.
On that note, please read Angie Epifano’s account of the rape she experienced while she was a student at Amherst College and the college’s response, here. This is a perfect example of the ways in which victim-blaming and discomfort with acknowledging instances of violence within a community contribute to a culture that normalizes sexual violence.
While this is a conversation that is always important to have, the current spotlight on this incident of sexual assault is an important time for us to think deeply about what a university community’s role is on campus in an incident of sexual violence. It’s a time where we all need to grapple with whether or not our university policies create an environment that is supportive for students who choose to come forward about their experiences of sexual violence. It is every student’s right to feel safe on campus, and it’s crucial that we consistently re-evaluate how well we, as a university community, put that right into practice.
Thus, it’s an important time for us @ Barnard and Columbia to know our policies and our resources. Know your rights on campus! Make it a point to inform yourself on what support is here for you if you or a friend should ever need it:
Here are the basics:
Barnard/Columbia Policy for Gender-Based & Sexual Misconduct: this is long, but important! Make sure you know what BC & CU will NOT tolerate.
The Rape Crisis/Anti-Violence Support Center: 112 Hewitt Hall (turn right @ the Brooks entrance of the barnard quad)
Peer Counselors are on staff to assist you every evening (except Monday and Wednesday) from 8-11pm. You can call 212-854-HELP to make an appointment or just come by as a walk-in. Remember that even if the center isn’t open, you can call 212-854-HELP 24 hours a day, 7 days a week if you need support.
Student Services for Gender Based and Sexual Misconduct: Make sure you read the policy above ^ to fully understand what behaviors are in violation of university policy. To report an incident of gender-based or sexual misconduct: call 212-854-1717.
NIGHTLINE (BC/CU’s Anonymous Listening Hotline): 212-854-7777. Peer listeners are on call from 10pm-3am, seven days a week.
And finally, please remember: you are not alone. The flood of comments thanking Angie for sharing her story and acknowledging that her experience was far from unique, is a painful yet powerful testament to the community of people out there who stand in solidarity with you.
Reach out, support each other, be well.