Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Resource to Recommend: Ruth Krall on How to Smell a Rape-Prone Campus

Here's a very valuable resource I'd like to share with you, which Ruth Krall has just uploaded to the "Tools" section of her Enduring Space blog site: "How to Smell a Rape-Prone Campus" (pdf file). I'll point out, too, that it's timely, as a new semester begins for college students around the country. 

In 24 succinct statements, Ruth describes the kind of campus on which rape is a serious problem, and where it's highly likely to be covered up. These statements obviously draw on her own wide experience as a therapist and theologian working with victims of sexual violence, and with her activism monitoring institutions that cover up the sexual violence of pastors and professors. 

Some of the points that leap out at me as I read through her extremely helpful description of rape-prone campuses:

(4)  Men occupy all positions of real power where rape might logically be reported; campus ministries, student physician, student counseling services, and student personnel or student life staff. 
(12)  More concern goes to protecting student men’s reputations than to women’s safety. This is particularly so if the men are athletic stars or student leaders on campus. 
(13)  Students (and staff) are not urged to report rapes, attempted rapes or other forms of sexual harassment to the police. In fact they may be urged or told outright not to report. 
(14)  Rape gets added to board meeting dockets as in the topic of how the campus is managing its rape policies in light of the federal guidelines. The board may or may not be given accurate information about numbers of rapes in any given year. The board does not insist on receiving a quarterly and annual update on the amounts of affinity violence reported. 
(15)  The board is not educated in a realistic way about the sexual violence epidemic and the need for sound campus policies. No one on the board has any expertise at all in the arena of sexual violence on college campuses.  
(21) Speakers and consultants with real expertise are seen as too controversial.  
(22) Legal financial settlements are done with rape survivors who sue or threaten to sue the institution. Gag orders are in effect.  
(23) The smell of institutional fear is omnipresent.   
(24) Men get to make the final decisions. Knowledgeable women’s voices are neither elicited nor valued. 

From my years in academic life, I'd say that this sounds right on the money to me. It also echoes experiences I had in graduate school, and have discussed here, about what happened when several student representatives to our faculty senate, including me, dared to report to the heavily male-dominated faculty the results of a student survey — which the faculty had commissioned — in which it was reported that sexual harrassment of female students by male faculty members was a serious problem at our theological school. 

I encourage you to read Ruth's document in its entirety. Its description of a rape-prone campus can, of course, equally apply to other institutions and workplaces. Please note Ruth's request on her blog that she be given credit for this copyrighted work, if it's cited or distributed elsewhere.

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