On Cross Campus, hundreds write messages of support to victims of sexual assault

Over the course of four hours, hundreds of students, faculty, and staff stopped by the steps of Sterling Memorial Library on March 9 to write messages of support to victims of sexual assault.

Hosted by Unite Against Sexual Assault Yale (USAY), the Women’s Center, and the Yale Black Women’s Coalition, the chalk-in was organized to shift the conversation away from being only about recent events to a more general discussion about Yale’s sexual climate, said Helen Price ’18, co-founder of USAY. She added that she hoped the chalk-in could serve as an “outlet” for the anger and frustration some students may be feeling.

Reflecting the positive tone of the event, many messages expressed love and support for victims, including some in various languages. Charelle Brown ’19 said public displays of support are important because it lets victims know they’re not alone. “No one should feel alone,” she explained. “It’s easy to feel as if no one will be there, but when you come here, you know people care.”

Nick Aramayo ’17, a communication and consent educator (CCE) for Timothy Dwight College, agreed and said it’s especially important for survivors to “know that there are other people in their position and that it’s not necessary to have experienced the same thing to see that other people support you.” Aramayo added that the CCE program is helpful in creating safe spaces where students can share experiences and support each other.

Other messages written throughout the day urged men and other allies to take a more active role in creating a healthier sexual climate at Yale.

“A lot of people on this campus are able to walk around with the luxury of not thinking about this, and it’s important we create spaces that don’t give you the option to ignore what’s happening,” said Dave Harris ’16. “I think these messages are gorgeous. People need to know the love and respect they have here, and people also need to know they can do better.”

Diana Orozco ’16 said it’s hurtful when people are indifferent, which often causes survivors to feel shamed and silenced, intensifying any feelings of isolation and loneliness. She also encouraged more people to publically speak out against sexual misconduct and to use their platforms to empower survivors.

“Sexual violence, in particular, is something that is seen as very private, and there’s still a lot of shame and stigma surrounding it,” said Price. “I think public displays of solidarity like this are important in decreasing that stigma and making people see that it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

Genevieve Simmons ’17 said she was happy to see so many people attend the chalk-in, adding that the more people who show solidarity, the more inclusive Yale’s campus becomes. Brown similarly felt encouraged by the amount of support students and community members showed.

“Sometimes people forget about the victims but we need to remember them. They should be at the center and getting the support they need to heal. It feels good to see people coming together,” she said.

SHARE and other resources

Yale strives to be a community free of sexual misconduct, by promoting the essential values of respect and responsibility, providing education, and working with students, faculty, and staff to create a community that is safe and supportive for all. Yale takes all complaints and accusations of sexual misconduct seriously.

For those considering help, more information can be found on the Sexual Misconduct Response (SMR) website. Yale offers four primary avenues of support for victims of sexual misconduct: the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response & Education (SHARE) center, the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct (UWC), the Yale Police, and the Title IX Coordinators. A guideline for what each does can be found on the SMR website.

The SHARE center is available for appointments and walk-ins at the lower level of Yale Health, 55 Lock St., Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Counselors are also available 24/7 at 203-432-2000. SHARE responders are Yale University mental health professionals. All calls to SHARE are confidential, and can be anonymous if one wishes. More information can be found on the center’s website. In cases of formal complaints, SHARE staff members are commonly chosen as advisors, but complainants may select whomever they wish to fill this role. Respondents also have the right to an advisor of their choice.

For informal and formal complaints, visit the UWC website. When a formal complaint is filed, as the primary disciplinary board for addressing complaints of sexual misconduct, the UWC utilizes an independent fact-finder to gather evidence and then holds a hearing to determine whether a violation of university policy has occurred, based on the “preponderance of the evidence” standard. Advisers may accompany the complainant and respondent at every stage, but they may not speak during interviews with a fact-finder or during a formal hearing. All notifications from the UWC will be provided in writing to both parties at the same time.

Normally, the formal complaint process takes about 60 days. The chair may extend the process if necessary due to illness, holidays, the absence of witnesses from campus, the complexity of the case, or competing demands on UWC members or decision makers. UWC sanctions can include mandated training, reprimand, probation, suspension, and termination/expulsion. The full UWC procedures are available online.

Undergraduates are also encouraged to contact the CCE program and Walden Peer Counseling for peer support. Students may call the Walden Peer Counseling hotline at 203-432-TALK (203-432-8255) any night during the academic year from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. Walk-ins are also available 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. in the basement of Welch Hall on Old Campus, entryway B, room A-05 during the academic year.