SMC student panel explores strategies to prevent sexual assault
Alex Winegar | Friday, September 18, 2015
The justice education program at Saint Mary’s sponsored a panel of eight students Thursday in the atrium of the Student Center, where the student panelists discussed changes that need to be made regarding sexual assault on campus.
The panel consisted of students involved in the justice education board, presidential task force and Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO). Panelists were: Maggie Langenfeld, Caylin McCallick, Nicole Caratas, Kayla Gaughan, Alex Shambery, Bri O’Brien, Katie Dwyer and Vanessa Odom (Editor’s note: Nicole Caratas is a news writer for the Observer).
“Rape and sexual assault are not natural consequences,” Dwyer said. “They are consequences of disrespecting someone else … [and] it happens when people don’t consider a person enough of a person.”
Last week, Annie Clark and Andrea Pino — both of whom were featured in the documentary “The Hunting Ground” — spoke at Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame and expanded on many important issues, Langenfeld said.
“An important issue they mentioned was compliance versus commitment,” Lagenfeld said. “We see this with a lot of issues, but particularly on college campuses.”
McCallick said she thought the campus was more compliant than committed in regards to sexual assault.
“As far as our efforts on campus, I think the university is more compliant than committed,” McCallick said. “Personally I think that there is not a strong effort to change policy.”
The panel also discussed college alcohol culture, and both Langenfeld and Odom said no matter how much alcohol students might consume, alcohol is not a cause of sexual assault, but a tool.
“Sexual assault is not a natural consequence of alcohol,” Odom said. “What is happening … is happening everywhere. … We put alcohol on a pedestal.”
Odom said the vulgar language heard on college campuses is also a part of the sexual assault issue.
“The language used around campus, like calling the bus ‘the sluttle,’ is an issue,” Odom said. “I hear it just as much, if not more [at Saint Mary’s], than when I’m across the street.”
Throughout the panel, students addressed topics like sexual assault survivor resources and who survivors can talk to.
Junior Maranda Pennington said she would like to have the LGBTQ community represented more in the sexual assault conversation.
“What I’d like for you to address on the task force is that being out on this campus, a lot of times the language that is used is disrespectful,” she said. “I want the LGBTQ community to be recognized at the task force.”
Gaughan said the presidential task force will meet for the first time Friday. She said the task force is investigating making all sexual assault and Title IX documents the same across the Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross campuses.