The #MeToo movement started a dialogue on college campuses, causing administrators to reflect existing prevention education policies.
For 22-year-old SF State student Giovanna Archiga, the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaign needs to go beyond social media to achieve a long-standing impact.
“The hashtag is a good place to start to get people talking,” said Archiga. “If you want to have a lasting impact you need something more than a hashtag.”
The recent wave of the movement is attributed to this year’s awards seasons overwhelming theme: social activism. The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements gained as much recognition as any movie, TV show or album from the past year.
Despite claims from activists such as Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinem that the #MeToo movement lacks inclusivity in professions outside of Hollywood, it has served to shed light on rampant sexual assault and promoted the rights and sexual autonomy of women in the industry.
According to The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college, and 90 percent of victims do not report the assault. This makes sexual assault the most underreported crime.
“The conversations that have been spurred among the general public and on the SF State campus because of the #MeToo campaign are valuable and will undoubtedly help a variety of folks understand the experiences of others a little better,” said Dean of Equity Initiatives Christina Sabee.
SF State has a strong outreach among the campus, receiving the most inquiries and reports on sexual assault than any other state campus in California, according to Sabee.
Despite the number of reports, since 2014, registered sexual assault reports have gone down from 85 to 75 reports annually, according to SF State’s Title IX Annual Report. The University has a policy in place to require students to complete a one-time online webinar called, ‘Think About It’ by Campus Clarity, one of three subcategories for the Health Promotion & Wellness resources.
The webinar discuss topics related to sexual assault, consensual sex, effective communication and the dangers of alcohol.
The completion of this program is a requirement set by the Chancellor’s Office and failure to do so places a dean of students hold on a student’s account. This is the extent of the prevention education that is mandatory for students.
“I’ve heard of the movements, but I haven’t heard from SF State about it,” said Genesis Morales, 19-year-old SF State sociology major, in regards to her knowledge about additional prevention education and student resources.
The #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns emphasize that sexual assault and discrimination stem from a place of ignorance and often sexism. Therefore, one of the biggest assets in the fight to end is prevention education.
“Our campus is not immune to the societal influences that perpetuate sexual violence and stigmatize victims of sexual harassment,” said Rick Nizzardini, interim director of the Health Promotion and Wellness unit, concerning the importance of heightened prevention education.
Nizzardini said the unit strives to engage all communities on campus to address sexual assault.
“The work calls for students, staff, faculty, organizations and different campus entities to have a concerted, unified effort and creative approaches to shift our culture so that all of us strive towards creating safer environments that prevent sexual violence from happening in the first place,” he said.
Masters of fine arts student, Jennifer Cross has already taken a creative approach in forming a safe space through journaling. Her book, “Writing Ourselves Whole,” illustrates how daily journaling can be a therapeutic tool for sexual assault victims.
“I didn’t feel safe talking to many people, or going to a therapist,” said Cross. “When I was writing, I didn’t have to be afraid that someone was going to contradict me. The page was giving me a safe space.”
The underreporting of sexual assault cases due to its widespread stigma is a problem. This culture of silence prohibits victims from receiving the proper attention and support they need which in turn perpetuates the harassment. Sexual assault survivors who are not ready to come forward can find refuge in Cross’s approach to healing.
In Cross’s book she writes about witnessing the moment when a survivor created a safe space for themselves on paper. It allowed survivors the opportunity to be truly raw and unfiltered with their story.
SF State has the Health Promotion & Wellness unit, the SAFE Place and the Title IX office as programs that combat sexual assault, and provide victims and survivors with adequate resources. The Safe Place provides resources for crisis counseling and victim/survivor advocacy. The key will be to seek beyond these programs.
According to Nizzardini, research indicates that SF State victims are more likely to tell a friend or classmate than utilize one of the campus resources.
For those who have not heard of additional student resources, Nizzardini said, “[Health Promotion & Wellness] will be hosting a sexual violence prevention collaborative open house in early April as a part of a week-long list of activities for Consent Week, and we look forward to speaking with all our communities to collectively create long lasting change.”
Any student interested in participating in the events regarding sexual violence prevention and/or sexual violence collaborative open house can receive more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.