Let’s Build More than Buildings

Today, Boston University announced that they would open a sexual assault crisis center as soon as next year.  In the past academic year, BU has had a number of sexual assault accusations, and although the President of the university stated that these occurrences were not the sole reason for the center, it is likely that they played a large role in the decision.  It’s too bad that BU didn’t have this resource available beforehand, but it’s great news that they will be opening a dedicated location with dedicated staff clinically trained in handling all manner of sexual assault crises.

Amherst would do well to follow this example.  We are rebuilding the football field and track for next fall and are about to break ground on a new science center.  I also just saw the electric car charging station near the music building.  I can’t remember this much construction since they were renovating the buildings in the Triangle.  So how about Amherst looks to create some new resources for sexual assault victims as well?

I went to see If These Lips Could Talk for the first time this semester and I joined the Men’s Initiative as well.  I have always stopped to look at the shirts hanging in the Val Quad and worn my purple-and-teal domestic violence ribbon proudly.  I appreciated the publication of It Happens Here.  I think Amherst’s student participation in groups that promote these projects, publications, and ideas is actually relatively high.  It’s great that we have so many Student Health Educators and Peer Advocates of Sexual Respect.  But I think that Amherst could do more on the professional front.

If someone visits the Amherst website looking for professional resources to deal with a sexual assault problem, he or she finds links to email or call Gretchen Krull or Denise McGoldrick.  And there are eight phone numbers for off-campus resources as well.  But why not add to our health services staff more clinically-trained professionals for confidentially working with victims of sexual assault?  Amherst should find a prominent space for a dedicated prevention and response center with professionals available whenever needed.  I see Gretchen’s office and the upstairs of the Health Center where the SHE’s and the Peer Advocates work because I happen to have a class on the second floor.  But I think most people don’t see it at all and some don’t even know where it is.  The CCE, on the other hand, is in a highly visible place and you’d be hard-pressed to find a student who had never seen the office.  A dedicated Sexual Assault Crisis Center would increase student awareness and participation in prevention.  It would also be easier for SHE’s and Peer Advocates to organize orientation activities for freshmen and for sports teams and make clear to anyone on campus that Amherst College was dedicated to eliminating the sexual and domestic violence that exists on campus.  We train very seriously to prevent drinking – the police talk to each freshman dorm – but its only other students who talk to us about sexual respect and violence?  Amherst College should incorporate professional voices into the mix as well so as to demonstrate that the college fully stands behind students who are trying to change this culture on campus.