Anti-Sexual Assault Coalition Now Represented at Clark

Jane Thomas, Contributing Writer

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Every college and university in the country grapples with the issue of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse on their camus. Clark is certainly not exempt from this nationwide epidemic, but it’s students have recently gained a new and important resource in the struggle to end sexual harassment and the ability to support survivors.

The Every Voice Coalition is an Anti-Sexual Harassment Coalition in Massachusetts, dedicated to advocating for the rights of survivors on college campuses and beyond. In January, Clark’s organization Students Advocating for Feminism and Empowerment (SAFE) partnered with Every Voice to be Clark’s number one student resource on fighting sexual assault and abuse.

The Every Voice Coalition is a rising force in the fight against sexual violence in Massachusetts. They have taken direct action to break the cycle of sexual assault and to create a supportive and empowering environment for survivors on college campuses. They have sought out and invited hundreds of students from more than 20 campuses to come together and rally on behalf of Every Voice and fight for survivors.

Every Voice has also taken action by advocating for student written legislation that is now going through the State House and Senate. Bill S.650 requires sexual assault climate surveys for institutions of higher education in Massachusetts, which will facilitate processes to improve the state of sexual assault policy at all Massachusetts colleges.

One of the most important actions Every Voice is taking to involve students in the fight against sexual assault is the Every Voice Advocacy Summit, which is happening on Saturday, February 23 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A few SAFE members will be attending, but we are also hoping to recruit more Clarkies to join us! In the words of Every Voice, “the Summit will be student-centered & action-focused. Attendees will be briefed on the law & legislative priorities, develop advocacy skills to use from campus to Congress, and hear from experienced perspectives in the field. Through both plenary panels and training sessions, students will gain the tools needed for holding institutions accountable.” The summit is free and open to all.

Looking beyond the summit to the rest of the semester, there will be a lot to look forward to. Soon, Every Voice will be assembling a student delegation to testify before the State House in support of anti-sexual assault legislation. This is the next step in advocating for survivors of sexual assault and fulfilling Every Voice’s goal of empowering students and giving them a platform.

Partnering with the Every Voice Coalition is also the next step SAFE is taking to address the issue of sexual assault on Clark’s campus and beyond. This semester, SAFE set up a sexual assault resource board in the lobby of Dana Commons. The board includes both on and off campus resources for survivors of sexual assault to access. Make sure to also check out the messages of support for survivors up on the board, and even submit your own message to the collection box! Facing your assault alone is something no one should have to go through, so SAFE is stepping up to support our peers as best we can.

Action against the issue of sexual assault on college campuses is more essential now than ever. During an administration that has been less than willing to act on behalf of survivors, the work of Every Voice is very relevant. Any day now, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s proposed changes to the Title IX policy of 1972 are expected to become law. These proposed changes are meant to limit the definition of sexual assault, making it more difficult for survivors to seek justice against their abuser, and allows institutions to ignore assault that happens off campus. As the Feminist Majority Foundation reports, 41% of all college sexual assaults occur off campus.

Furthermore, these proposed changes would allow colleges to unfairly target LGBTQ+ students without any backlash. The proposed changes allow institutions to claim “religious exemptions,” which absolve them from following Title IX policy. Not only will this hurt survivors but more specifically allows schools to discriminate against LGBTQ+ students. According to the LGBTQ Movement Advancement Project, this puts more than 8,000 LGBTQ+ students who attend schools who have filed for a religious exemption at risk of expulsion once these proposed changes become law.

These are only a few examples of the damage done by targeted policy on behalf of the government. Every Voice’s mission of student empowerment and advocacy is a strong effort to counter this damage. SAFE is thrilled to be able to bring this inspiring mission to Clark and we hope other Clarkies will be inspired too.

Please contact SAFE if interested in attending the Every Voice Advocacy Summit- no past involvement with SAFE or Every Voice is required.