[pullquote1 quotes=”true” align=”center”]Letter to the Editor[/pullquote1]

To the Editor:

The editorial “Survivor shame vs. support” that ran in the Oct. 29 edition of The College Reporter encouraged the College’s administration to share with our campus the many ways we support victims of sexual assault. We welcome this opportunity to reinforce our foremost priority is the safety and wellbeing of every member of our community, including providing initial and ongoing support to victims of sexual harassment and sexual violence.

The College provides multiple safe and confidential options for victims of sexual misconduct to come forward with their questions, concerns, and experiences and to file formal complaints. We are committed to educational programs for our students and employees, both to raise awareness about this important issue and also to help prevent instances of sexual harassment and violence.

The College, through Health Services and Counseling Services, has established the Sexual Assault Response Line (717-560-7311), which provides 24-hour daily, confidential access to F&M counseling service and health service professionals. We are dedicated to providing any student who has experienced sexual violence an environment of understanding and caring support. We encourage every member of our community to visit the website that provides information on F&M’s sexual assault resources, at http://www.fandm.edu/student-health-services/sexual-assault-awareness.

An essential element of a supportive community is an unwavering effort to ensure victims are empowered with the information they need and that friends and peers know how they can offer support. The College’s Sexual Assault Response Team posts red stickers in campus bathrooms with numbers to call for advice and help, and the Office of Health and Wellness posts bathroom stall signs with tips for avoiding sexual assault. This includes information for students about steps to protect against sexual assault, how to help victims, and how to influence social behaviors on campus. In addition, all first-years are required to attend an orientation program about sexual assault and HA’s and SHAC members are trained to listen and make referrals for victims.

Another significant component of our efforts is a process the College is developing to train faculty and staff on an annual basis about their responsibilities to students and to the College to ensure victims are heard and appropriate action is taken under College policy and federal and state laws. We take very seriously the need to protect student privacy, not only in compliance with the law, but also as part of our own very strong commitment to avoiding re-victimizing members of our community who report incidents of sexual misconduct. Finally, we continue to promote a range of opportunities in partnership with students and faculty to raise awareness about sexual assault among all community members: The recent panel “Sexual Assault on College Campuses” sponsored by the student group S.A.V.E. (Sexual Assault and Violence Education) is one example; the annual “Take Back the Night” that brings the community together in solidarity against sexual violence is another initiative; and discussions at the Women’s Center that regularly offer an opportunity for discussion is yet another opportunity for focusing attention on this issue. It’s also affirming to see students being leaders through such efforts as the student men’s group One in Four, which makes presentations to male organizations about being responsible bystanders and helping to eliminate disrespectful gendered language, behaviors, and attitudes.

We know there is still more work to do. Issues of sexual violence continue to affect campuses across the country, and I, as well as the rest of the College administration, thank you for taking a public stance and raising awareness on campus.

Kent Trachte,
Dean of the College