Columns / Discourse / October 28, 2015

Title IX reform: Safe spaces to start campus

Throughout this term, seniors Erica Witzig, Rachael Morrissey, Sithara Vincent and sophomore Lexi Toney have been working with Janell McGruder (therapist at Knox Counseling), Kim Schrader (Title IX Coordinator), Tom Stafford (Interim Vice President for Student Development), Mark Welker (Campus Safety Director), Deb Southern (Dean of Students) and Kelly Shaw (psychology professor) to establish a safe space for sexual violence survivors at Knox College. While the official room for the survivor space has yet to be officially designated, students are culling a variety of resources for the space, and would like to reach out to the entire campus community for input and suggestions on resources.

The room is slated to open for use at the beginning of Winter Term, and throughout winter break, the students above will be supplying it with resources and readying for its official opening.

Throughout this process, our group has been taking precautions to ensure the space is as safe as possible, considering such factors as whether the space is centrally-located, whether it is accessible from reasonably private entrances, whether it is situated in a decently quiet area and so forth. We are also working with Campus Safety to make sure the space is accessible 24/7.

The space will have “open” hours for several hours a day, meaning that anyone is welcome to walk in, find resources and leave on an as-needed basis. The rest of the day and night, there will be a sign on the door that students may use that indicates whether the space is being used and other students must wait to use the space (“In Use”), or whether someone may enter immediately (“Available”).

The open hours allow for group visits to the room, or for walk-in visits, while the other hours will ensure that survivors may use the space individually and in complete privacy.

Thus far, the survivor safe space will have the following resources:

  • Informational pamphlets on sexual assault, consent, self-care and community resources. Some pamphlets are student-created, while others are from nearby crisis agencies. Most of these pamphlets may be taken from the space by anyone who needs them, and will be replenished regularly.
  • Hotline note cards that have three basic hotlines for sexual assault, dating/domestic violence and suicide intervention. These notecards may be taken from the space by anyone who needs them, and will also be replenished regularly.
  • A religion-neutral prayer request message board on which survivors may pin notecards with anonymous prayer requests (or requests for thoughts, positive energy, etc. to be sent their way).
  • Resources for friends, family members and romantic partners of survivors on how to help survivors heal, how to navigate intimacy with survivors, how to self-care as you help survivors, etc.
  • Free pregnancy tests and information on how to obtain emergency birth control and other reproductive services after assault.
  • Information on legal aid, sexual violence survivor support blogs and forums and various other resources for survivor assistance.
  • Self-care items such as coloring books, stress balls, etc.

Although a wide variety of pamphlets, informational resources and other items have already been collected, we are interested in reaching out to student groups who may wish to add something to the space. Specifically, we are hoping that a wide variety of ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds are represented in the survivor space, as well as all gender identities, sexual orientations and other identities which are important to survivors.

Ideally, any interested student groups will send in something they would like to be placed in the space, so that if a survivor who is a part of that student group or organization seeks resources from the survivor space, they will see that their identity is represented there.

For example, a multicultural student group may wish to offer a cultural emblem or a group-written note to the space, so that survivors from that multicultural group will see that members of their group are in solidarity with them as they seek support and healing.

If you have interest in helping with the collection of support items such as self-care items, recovery tips, etc., if you would like to offer constructive feedback about the space in general, or if your student group would like to contribute something to the space, please email Erica Witzig at elwitzig@knox.edu. Your contributions are important — we want everyone to feel validated and comfortable seeking resources from this space, as well as to know that their identities and experiences are represented.

Erica Witzig

Tags:  Campus Safety coloring books positive energy safe space self-care stress balls title ix title ix reform

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