Last week I stood on a stage with eight men and debated sexual assault in the CoHo. Not only were too few women in the crowd, too few women are running for ASSU student positions this year – with myself being the only female represented in the executive slates. The stark contrast between this turnout and Stanford’s majority female student population has not discouraged me, but has instead inspired me to continue to fight for a strong woman’s voice on campus.
While this year less than a quarter of Senate candidates are women, last year both executive slates had a woman running as President. One of our current ASSU Executives, Elizabeth Woodson, has been an excellent female leader, notably in regards to sexual assault reform. On a very difficult and emotionally charged issue, Elizabeth and Logan have done groundbreaking work. Representing the female voice when discussing sexual assault reform is necessary, and Elizabeth’s countless hours and persistent effort demonstrate just how important a determined and influential female leader is to move forward.
Specifically, the Task Force’s suggestion to focus on educating the community about sexual assault is essential. The Provost Task Force writes that it will provide resources to “faculty, departments and community centers to provide education about the root causes of sexual assault and its consequences”. Additionally, the Task Force should be applauded for attempting to unify diverse and complex responses for dealing with sexual assault into one system that is available for impacted students.
However, the Task Force’s recommendations are only the start. With the transition advisory committee, there is a space for student leaders to continue to represent Stanford students’ voices. It is crucial that education is emphasized; without a larger cultural shift, the issue will persist. Efforts to develop sexual assault training courses must be supported and promoted. Likewise, the committee needs to sponsor research on sexual assault, to understand both its causes and consequences.
We want to challenge the stigma associated with sexual assault on college campuses with the goal of increasing reporting rates. Here, education is key; all sides must understand the issue thoroughly so we can help victims of all genders. We hope to help expand programs that are being developed by student, residential and community groups in order to facilitate peer-to-peer engagement. By providing these resources we will be able to enhance the support that students currently receive.
Yet, we need to be cognizant that this is a pilot program that will be developed over the next three years. The administration needs to be pressured to continue moving forward with these recommendations to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all students on campus. A female leader is important as these sexual assault policies are developed over the coming years.
We must also be aware of the strong tie between sexual assault and mental health. While we improve our system for sexual assault, we must jointly improve mental health resources. CAPS is in the process of receiving additional funding, but just as the Task Force targets the root causes of sexual assault, we must get to the root of mental health issues on campus. This includes mental health literacy outreach by working through NSO and with Residential Staff. It also includes small changes, such as reorganizing the list of off-campus counselors based on availability and specialty, and working to break down simple barriers to entry, such as off-campus transportation. By focusing on creating a team that is composed of trained psychologists, we will be able to better prepare for trauma response. Looking towards the immediate future, we can create a program that recommends specific counselors from CAPS to meet the needs of students.
Sexual assault and mental health are just two of the issues student’s face that are not going away overnight. They require vast amounts of energy, time and effort. As we continue to push for solutions, we need to include as many perspectives as possible; the inclusion of a strong, female perspective will be critical. Let us look at the progress that has been made and be inspired: inspired to redefine, revitalize and restore.
Dottie Jones ‘16
ASSU Executive Candidate
Contact Dottie Jones at dojones “at” stanford.edu