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Not Sweeping Sexual Assault Under the Rug

There has been a lot of media attention lately about universities sweeping rape/sexual assault under the proverbial rug.  I coordinate the Respect Program in Emory University’s Office of Health Promotion, and our mission is to engage the Emory community to prevent and respond to sexual assault and relationship violence. I want to address the nuances of not-sweeping-sexual-assault-under-the-rug from the three perspectives from which I work: advocate, health promotion professional, and administrator. Our approach must be comprehensive and attentive to the complexities of the issue. We must envision the campuses that we want, not just correct mistakes that have been made or ensure adherence to policy alone.

As an advocate, I work with students who have experienced interpersonal violence and advise and mentor our student advocacy group, Sexual Assault Peer Advocates.  In order to create a campus in which sexual assault is truly addressed, we must all learn how to support survivors.  We need to ask them what they want without making assumptions.  I work to help survivors feel safer and to have access to the same experience at Emory as students who have not experienced sexual assault. This is not my work alone.  All members of the Emory community can advocate for survivors by believing them, supporting them, knowing the resources available on campus, not telling “rape jokes” or perpetuating a culture that endorses violence, and including these issues in the university discourse on multiple levels.

As a health promotion professional and prevention educator, I ...