By Talia Floyd
Berea College has chosen to focus on bystander intervention. Basham explains saying “Research has shown that those programs that focus on teaching women not to get raped and teaching men not to be rapists don’t work. The majority of men aren’t going to be perpetrators…bystander intervention, is not labeling women as victims.”
Sexual violence on college campuses is a pressing national issue. According to both the Department of Justice and the Washington Post 1 in 5 women on college campuses are sexually assaulted. While different institutions experience higher and lower rates of sexual violence, one would be hard pressed to find an institution that is immune and Berea is no exception. While every department and group on campus has some obligation to address issues of sexual violence it is the specific work of the title IX office to make sure that the laws of title IX are being properly enforced. So, what exactly is title IX?
According to Katie Basham, Berea college’s title IX coordinator, “Title IX is a federal law that essentially prohibits gender based discrimination.” That covers sexual violence, stalking, dating violence, pregnant and parenting students, and while some people in the current administration would like to deny it, title IX also covers transgender students and their rights.
Basham’s job as title IX coordinator is “To make sure that the college is complying with that law, overseeing processes for responding to alleged to sexual misconduct. To work with students who may be pregnant, work with a committee to constantly evaluate our process … also overseeing all of our prevention programs.” As she succinctly put it “Lots of moving parts.”
On the ongoing conversation around prevention, It is still common to hear a version of prevention that cautions women and girls to stop being so “sexually available”. This is a strategy which ignores male and non binary survivors and assumes that it is women and girls are the cause of sexual violence rather than perpetrators.
The same logic applied to any other crime would be ludicrous. While female and LGBTQIA+ people are at a much greater risk for sexual violence and perpetrators are generally male, only targeting men and boys to change their behavior still allows female perpetrators to be overlooked.
When the Pinnacle asked about the importance of last semester’s convo demonstration Basham said “The convo demonstration I thought was super powerful, beautiful, effective, wonderful. I think last semester was a really important nudge.” she continued.
“It was hard but it was also super inspiring. I’ve worked at Berea for more than a decade and I’ve worked closely with students…, they can empower others to use their voices as well. Last semester put student voices in the forefront.”
Expanding on how the convocation demonstration and subsequent organizing influenced the way Berea deals with sexual violence Basham said “We heard from students who were just confused by the process and we realized it would be helpful for students to have some guidance. We have just put into place a team of faculty and staff…” That team of faculty and staff will serve to help students both understand and walk through the title IX process. Furthermore, the school will be adding process advisors who will similarly help guide students through the title IX process, but will be equipped with a more in depth understanding of both survivors’ needs and how to navigate title IX.
However, is Berea College’s action of focusing on an optional bystander training program the best way to educate the entire student body on Title IX?