On November 17th this semester, our class welcomed a presentation from two guest speakers from Project Safe. I found this presentation to be one of the most influential presentations that we have witnessed thus far. The two women were extremely knowledgeable and dedicated to their roles in Project Safe and were extremely passionate, which provided for an enticing and engaging presentation. Project Safe, as defined by the guest speakers, is a center for sexual misconduct prevention and response. The mission of the center is to “provide information, support, referrals, and education about power-based personal violence (including sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking), as well as consent, healthy relationships, and healthy sexuality to the Vanderbilt University community.” Vanderbilt has been affected by many reported incidents of sexual assault and personal violence and so this presentation was extremely relevant to this campus and at this time. The guest speakers explained how the center serves as a resource for victims that can assist in finding he or she proper support through resources such as counseling and/or legal matters. The women described the issue of sexual assault on the campus by providing statistics regarding the number of personal violence incidents that have occurred on campus while respecting the confidentiality of the victims. The guest speakers provided insight on how crucial this center is to the campus in giving an idea of just how many victims they are approached by and how their jobs require availability for long hours of attending to and providing emotional support of the victim. A beneficial aspect of this presentation was the energy of the two women that spoke. Their dedication and passion that they have for Project Safe was obvious and inspiring. The women were also extremely helpful in answering questions that our class had for them at the end of the presentation. Our class asked questions such as about the rape scandal that occurred within our Vanderbilt Football team and the prevalence of the emails that we receive reporting sexual assaults on campus. I was especially curious about the emails that we receive about reported sexual assaults, as I wrote my op-ed piece on this topic. These emails are alarming in quantity and I wondered how many of the reported sexual assaults are represented in these emails and the criteria that an incident fits into in order for it to be sent out in an email to the campus student body. A limitation of this presentation might be that the two women could have provided an example of an incidence of sexual assault that had occurred on campus that might have been especially heinous in order to express the immensity of the problem that personal violence signifies in general. Although it is not necessary for the presentation, it might have added strength to the power of the audience reaction.
A connection that I made from this presentation was to many of the previous content we have covered involving sexual misconduct and sexual violence. This presentation reminded me of the exhibition, “I am Unbeatable” photographed by Donna Ferrato that we viewed in October in the Fine Arts Gallery. Seeing the images that portrayed acts of abuse from that exhibition left me with an unsettling feeling and an obvious disgust for this type of abuse. Project Safe aims to prevent acts of violence such as the ones exhibited by Donna Ferrato and provides a resource for victims of personal violence. With both the raised awareness by Donna Ferrato’s photograph and creation of this exhibition and the Project Safe center becoming more well-known and utilized, our nation can attempt to eliminate violence like this and emphasis the disgust that characterizes sexual and power-based personal violence.
An example that I felt related to this presentation of Project Safe is this image that I came across on the Internet.
This image is very informative and covers a wide range of statistics that are related to sexual violence and assault specifically at the University of Texas in Austin. As mentioned during the presentation and during many classes, one in five woman are sexually assaulted while in college. Many of these statistics are alarming and shocking. Eighty to ninety percent of assaults on college campuses involve victims that know their assailants. This relates to the question that the guest speakers addressed about the emails from VUPD that the student body receives informing us on sexual assaults on campus. Both women notified us that many people do not pay close enough attention to the wording and content in the email and should be aware that many emails specify whether or not the assault was considered an acquaintance or not. This might influence the perception of sexual assault on campus and may alleviate some fear that might stem from the fear of being assaulted by an unknown person wandering on campus. It also might promote wariness about those around us and to not trust all of our acquaintances and to be more alert on campus in general. A key statistic in this image was that less than five percent of survivors report their crime. This statistic is one that is consistent with the guest speaker’s presentation and implies that the emails that the student body receives only accounts for reported assaults. With such a small percentage of assaults being reported, one can assume that sexual assault occurs quite a bit more frequently than we would infer from those emails.
Do you feel safe on this college campus?
Why do you think such a small percentage of survivors of sexual assault are actually reported?
Do you feel as if Project Safe would be a resource you would utilize if this situation arose for you?