Swatties Work Together to Make Campus SAFER

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

On Saturday, November 4, Swarthmore students attended a presentation by Students Active For Ending Rape (SAFER) in order to learn more about the dangers of sexual assault on campus and how to prevent them. SAFER was founded in 2000 by students at Columbia University who were upset with the ways their school responded to cases of sexual assault and decided to mobilize around the slogan “Red tape will not cover up rape.” Since 2000, SAFER has worked to encourage students to make their campuses safer by playing an active role in determining their school’s sexual assault policies and practices.

Merideth Vacek, Swarthmore’s SAFER mentor, describes SAFER as a “grassroots, all volunteer organization whose goal is to end sexual assault on college campuses.” She explains that she was invited to Swarthmore by “concerned students who identified problems with Swarthmore’s sexual assault policy and wanted to have a positive impact on their campus community.”

During the presentation, students discussed sexual assault statistics, rape culture, what qualifies as consent, and victim blaming in order to gain a better understanding of the issue. With this knowledge in mind, they combed through Swarthmore’s policy regarding sexual assault to look for weak spots and areas that might need revision. They discussed techniques for primary prevention and risk reduction and reviewed the ways the college’s policy currently manages crisis interventions, resources for survivors, reporting options, and disciplinary procedures. Attendees were invited to follow up on any relevant concerns by contacting members of the SAFER Activist Mentoring Program (AMP), a resource that provides students with online and phone support in order to help strengthen sexual assault prevention or assistance programs.

Rebecca Ahmad ’14, a member of Swarthmore’s Sexual Misconduct Advisors and Resource Team (SMART) as well as a volunteer for the Rape, Abuse and Incest Nation Network (RAINN), explains how important the message of the conference is to Swarthmore’s community. “As a campus with such a small community, we risk throwing these issues under the rug. It is important that we have procedures in place and support systems in place so students know the resources available to them. We need more awareness.”

Joe Niagara ’12, a facilitator for Swarthmore’s Acquaintance Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP) workshop, agrees. “There are a number of problems with the existing policy regarding response and resources for survivors on campus. This is apparent by the number of students willing to take time out of their Saturday afternoons to discuss this issue. This program can give us the tools we need to help change existing policy, raise awareness and make our campus safer.”

Students interested in student-led violence prevention groups or survivor resources on campus can contact Beth Kotarski of SMART, MC Massi ’12 of ASAP, Rebecca Ahmad ’14 of Swat Survivors, or Lisa Sendrow ’13 of Swarthmore Feminists. More information about SAFER can be found at SaferCampus.org.


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