Nov. 6 author’s addendum: The article refers to the LGBTQ Director as a responsible employee. While this is true, she is also a SART advocate and accessible as a private resource.
[Content warning: This article discusses sexual violence.]
With the semester well underway, it seems as if the whole campus is excited for one of Vassar’s most anticipated weekends: Halloween!
Throughout campus there are many events going on that cater to a variety of preferences. Whether you choose to go out and party or stay in and watch a movie, there will certainly be something to do.
CARES wanted to take this opportunity to inform the campus about ways that an individual can take action to prevent sexual violence in our community.
Unfortunately, even though Halloweekend is a time of relaxation and celebration, it also presents the opportunity for individuals to perpetrate sexual violence. Through understanding situations that can lead to interpersonal violation, individuals can keep themselves and others safe.
The Halloween Party this year will be held in Noyes Circle, in an outdoor setting. The administration hopes that this will increase accountability and make it more difficult for violation to happen than in a dark, cramped space such as the Villard Room.
While this is a commendable action, there is still a need for prevention and intervention on an individual level.
By prevention, we mean:
Be respectful of others’ person- al space. Provided there is enough room, don’t dance too close to another person without their consent, and if you want to dance with them, just ask!
Remember to always ask for consent before touching someone, even if it’s just giving them a hug or a pat on the back.
Also, remember that revealing or tight-fitting costumes are NOT an invitation to touch. Individuals can dress however they please regardless of gender identity or body type and deserve respect towards their bodies.
Hooking up happens often during Halloweekend. Remember that the definition of consent is a voluntary, knowing “yes” that does not come about through intimidation. The lack of a “no” in itself does not qualify as consent.
Intoxication from substances such as alcohol or other drugs impairs judgment so that the intoxicated individual may be unable to give consent to a sexual act.
If you find yourself in a situation where you or your partner are intoxicated, perhaps stop for a moment and talk out your options. It is much better to wait until everyone is sober and able to make informed decisions.
By intervention we mean:
Being an active bystander can be an effective way to prevent interpersonal violation before it happens. For first-years, Halloweekend can be a time to implement some intervention techniques you learned during orientation.
We in CARES really like the “4 D’s”: direct approach, distract, delegate and finally delay. The “direct” approach involves confronting individuals directly.
For example, if you see someone making another person uncomfortable with gestures, comments or attempted touching, you can approach those involved directly and ask if everything is okay.
The potential victim might very well recognize the opportunity to leave the situation and take it. The “distract” approach works well for those who don’t feel comfortable or safe intervening directly.
This could involve asking the potential victim to come to the bathroom with you, telling an entertaining story or generally making a ruckus to break up the flow of the dangerous situation.
Lastly, the “delegate” approach involves going to someone else, informing them of the situation and recruiting their help to diffuse it. There is strength in numbers! For example, reaching out to a house team member or another student leader for their help in confronting individuals is a useful tactic.
Oftentimes, hosts of parties at houses will be receptive to you approaching them and inform- ing them of a potentially dangerous situation. Many times they will be willing to ask perpetrators to leave their home.
For anyone hosting parties, consider creating a Facebook event that lays out the ground rules for your party and encouraging guests to mention inappropriate behavior to hosts wearing identifying pieces, like wrist bands. This can help make your home a safe space for partygo- ers.
In all cases, your safety is the top priority. If you do not feel safe intervening in a situation, it is okay to ask for help. If you feel your im- mediate physical safety is in danger, call Vassar Security!
With all of the aforementioned tactics, it can also be helpful to follow up with the victim and/or the perpetrator afterwards. This is the fourth D: “delay.”
In order to improve the culture of sexual violence in which we live, we must work even after incidents to educate perpetrators and hold them accountable for their actions, and to support victims/survivors of the violence.
A follow-up can be as simple as reaching out to the victim and making sure they are supported and that their needs are being met.
If you or someone you know experiences interpersonal violation during Halloweekend, there are resources available on and off campus. Counselors-on-call and Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) advocates are available for support 24/7. They can be reached by calling the Campus Response Center at (845) 437-7333.
SART is a group of faculty, administrators and staff who are trained to provide survivor-centered support and advocacy services to those impacted by sexual and interpersonal violence.
Charlotte Strauss Swanson, the Director of Vassar Sexual Assault and Violence Prevention (SAVP) and a victim-survivor advocate, is available to talk to you or anyone affected by interpersonal violation.
SAVP and SART advocates are private resources. This means that any disclosures you make to them regarding assaults are not reported to the College unless there are safety concerns and for statistical purposes without sharing identifying information. Formal reports of sexual misconduct can be filed on campus through the Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action/Title IX office.
Please keep in mind that professors, administrators, the ALANA Center director, LGBTQ Center director and House Advisors are considered responsible employees, meaning they are required to report any disclosures to the Title IX office.
You have the right to respond or not respond to any outreach from the Title IX office follow- ing a disclosure. More information about private, confidential and responsible employees is located at: savp.vassar.edu/reporting/report- ing-responsibilities.html.
More information about all the resources available to you is located at savp.vassar.edu/ resources/.
We hope these tips will help you to have a fun and safe Halloweekend! Remember there are resources available to you and that we have a community responsibility to end the culture of sexual violence.