Opinion

Not My Advocate: An Open Letter from a Group of Sexual Assault Survivors at Loyola

Photo courtesy of LUC Stronger Together

We, a group of sexual assault survivors on campus, write this open letter with no intention of speaking on behalf of other survivors or invalidating their feelings.

We share our stories and concerns with the goal of creating an open dialogue regarding rape culture and sexual assault on this campus.

This letter contains our response to the recent actions taken by Students for Reproductive Justice (SRJ) in the “fight against sexual assault,” with the hope that the organization, and others, takes our stories as survivors into account as it
moves forward with its efforts to advocate for survivors on campus.

In response to SRJ’s Inauguration Action and protests plan, we feel extremely disheartened and voiceless as survivors at Loyola. Some of the demands SRJ made were inappropriate and insensitive.

Many of us sexual assault survivors have recently begun the formal reporting process for our assaults, and this is a time of great fear, anxiety and pain for us.

Loyola and the faculty and staff who handle sexual assault cases are not perfect, but we firmly believe they are doing their best to genuinely support survivors in various ways.

SRJ’s demand that Loyola fire its Associate Dean of Students, Tim Love, was extremely inappropriate. Not only has he been a great asset to the Loyola community, but he has also been nothing but supportive in regards to our own experiences.

The idea of firing Love is terrifying to us — we would not be able to go through our investigations, or even continue to thrive on campus, without his support.

On Nov. 11, SRJ created a Facebook post about reaching various agreements regarding their inauguration action and demands after meeting with Vice President Jane Neufeld.

One of the agreements stated, “The university will open up an additional support group for sexual assault survivors beginning next semester.”

After reading this announcement, we feel even more silenced. The addition of another group is not SRJ’s doing.

Earlier in the fall 2016 semester, as members of the Wellness Center’s Group for Sexual Assault Survivors, we advocated for the addition of another group in response to the high volume of survivors coming forward.

Therefore, by Nov. 11, there had already been two sexual assault survivor groups existing within the Wellness Center for weeks, as a result of our aforementioned decision and commitment to keeping the doors open for others in need of support.

Any claim that the administration disregards sexual assault is simply untrue. In the first week of the fall semester, Loyola President Dr. Jo Ann Rooney asked for our permission to attend one of our group meetings.

On Sept. 26, Rooney met with us and actively listened to our individual concerns and ideas about how to make campus a safer environment for sexual assault survivors.

She then answered the questions we had for her, clearing up any misunderstandings about her stances on sexual assault.

After being nominated by President Obama to be undersecretary of the Navy, Dr. Rooney supported protecting the chain of command in prosecuting major crimes, including sexual assault, within the military.

We felt that this position silenced and discouraged survivors from coming forward.

However, Dr. Rooney clarified to our group why she took that stance: she said it was her occupational obligation to endorse her elector’s position, an obligation outside of her control and beyond the incorporation of her own personal beliefs.

After that meeting, Loyola’s administration put some of our requests into action as soon as the next week.

The first Campus Safety email sent out following our meeting with Dr. Rooney included the university’s recognition that “survivors are not at fault for any crime.”

This statement served as an important reminder to survivors that they are in no way, shape or form responsible for what has happened to them.

Also after our meeting with Dr. Rooney, we were informed by Tracie Pape, a licensed clinical social worker and the lead therapist for the Group for Sexual Assault Survivors at the Wellness Center that a second survivor group would be added per
our request in the coming weeks.

Since our discussion, Dr. Rooney has maintained an open dialogue and showed she is willing to meet with us.

This effort not only shows that the administration is aware and cares for survivors, but it also shows how healthy dialogue produces effective and positive changes.

The purpose of sharing our stories is not to start an argument.

We understand that mistakes and miscommunication happen. We share our stories in the hopes of showing other survivors on campus that it is safe to seek help within the university, despite recent negative portrayals.

In our experiences, the administration engages with students to discuss our concerns and work toward positive changes.

For instance, after the misfiling of a report earlier in the year, the university apologized to the student. It also made changes to the reporting process to ensure better outcomes of future reports.

Although the university is not perfect, the administration is committed to improving the experiences of its students.

To any survivor reading this: We believe you, and we support you. If any readers have any questions, concerns or simply want to reach out, please feel free to email us at lucstrongertogether@gmail.com.

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