I agree with all the principles of this campaign, and I’m glad there has been so much recent discussion about sexual assault at Haverford and the school’s ways of approaching it. I also support the parts of the letter to the Deans that are directed toward the Deans and toward the community. Still, whenever I read through the letter, I can’t help but wince at the part that calls on the faculty and students.
The letter calls for “academic discussions of sexual violence that recognize there may be survivors present.” I’m afraid this could create an atmosphere in which people feel they cannot express all their thoughts on sexual assault and rape. As long as the discussion remains respectful, I don’t believe any thought should be put into whether or not survivors are present.
This issue matters a lot to me. I am a survivor of both rape and sexual assault, and I know there are many others at Haverford. But I certainly don’t want people to take that into account when talking about sexual violence around or with me. I want to hear all opinions on the issue, including those I don’t agree with, those that frame me as a “victim,” even those that say what happened to me was my own fault. Likewise, I don’t want people who respond to this post to think, “uh-oh. She’s a survivor. I better watch what I say.” All opinions should enter into the discussion. Otherwise, how can we respond to those we believe are misled?
Haverford should foster an atmosphere in which students and faculty feel open to express their thoughts. Yes, everyone should express their opinions in a respectful and sensitive way, but people should not bite their tongues because they are afraid of offending someone in the room.