Dear President Gutmann,
We write to you on behalf of Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention, a student organization on campus dedicated to fighting sexual assault, intimate partner violence and stalking in Penn’s community. We reference your email in which you addressed the A.A.U. Campus Climate Survey results. Unfortunately, to the students and staff who have been personally affected by this type of violence, as well as to those who consistently work to prevent it, these results did not come as a surprise. We have long understood that sexual violence is entrenched in our community, and that it is bolstered and perpetuated by the institutions of sexism, homophobia, transphobia, white supremacy and ableism.
We truly appreciate your efforts and those of Penn administration in administering the Campus Climate Survey and releasing the results. We hope that the data will be useful when creating new initiatives to end sexual violence, with focus directed towards the campus communities that are most affected. We fully support the creation of new campaigns to raise awareness about sexual violence, such as the national “It’s On Us” campaign and the “It’s On Us Penn” campaign. We thank you for the resources that are available to us, and we are glad that you are committed to redoubling efforts to effectively tackle this problem.
While we understand that you find the survey results deeply troubling, many students have expressed that the manner in which the results were addressed made them feel more like statistics than people. We want to remind you of the importance of honoring personal stories, and would have appreciated your personal mention of support for survivors. We also believe it is necessary to address the rape culture that fostered these extremely high rates of sexual assault. It is critical to first acknowledge the prevalence of rape culture, as well as the cultures of racially based violence, violence facing disabled students, violence against LGBTQ students and other systematic violence before we can positively change our campus climate.
As students, we are eager to hear what initiatives substantiate your promise to make every student safe from all forms of sexual harassment and assault on campus, so we ask: What will this look like? Will there be increased staff both for supporting survivors and for educational outreach? We encourage you to involve ASAP and other student organizations that are dedicated to this cause when answering these questions — we understand that culture change is the responsibility of both the administration and the students. If we are to heal as a community, hold perpetrators accountable and deconstruct the stigma that surrounds being a survivor of sexual violence, we need more resources, consistent support and sustainable, ongoing dialogue with Penn’s administration. We understand that you often meet with student groups to address important campus issues, so we ask for your time to meet with ASAP specifically to discuss student concerns about sexual violence in our community.
Finally, we invite you to attend this year’s Take Back the Night and show your personal commitment to standing up for survivors. We appreciate your sending a letter to us every year on Take Back the Night, but this year in particular we welcome you to join us in person to either address the opening rally, or to hear the stories shared by survivors, or both.
The Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention Executive Board
ISABELLA AUCHUS is a College junior from Jackson, Miss., studying Psychology. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.