Editor’s Note: This story includes mentions of sexual violence.
In light of recent articles about sexual assault at Jacobs, I’m writing to share thoughts gained from past experience as a sexual assault victim advocate. I was an advocate for 7 years and worked with the late Associate Dean Pamela Freeman. Freeman was the one who put into place many of the protocols that are followed today in a greatly expanded format. They are based on heartfelt beliefs that people matter, that victimization is not OK, and that kindness and a culture of care are of paramount importance. IU’s Sexual Assault Crisis Center, Confidential Victim Advocates, and Dean of Students’ employees are highly skilled and compassionate individuals who I believe have the best interests of victims in mind.
To the victims: I know you are in pain and wish I could fix it. Unfortunately, the pain of being a victim is often so deep that none of us can lessen it. Time helps — and reporting and talking to an advocate or counselor can help, but it is a slow process.
Over time, I have learned that the court of public opinion is not the place to find justice. Rather, it is the place for revenge and destruction. If victims choose to pursue public retribution and blame the institution, then there is little hope for healing and victims end up feeling helpless. I want victims to feel personally empowered and want them to know that the university has people who can help.
The university provides an even-handed approach to misconduct. In the 7 years that I did this work, advocacy meant supporting the victim in many ways: 1) believing them and providing information about medical, psychological, academic or other support; 2) respecting their decision about proceeding through the campus judicial system or not; 3) hoping that once the outcome is delivered, the victim will be able to move forward. If a student is found to have committed a violation, IU sanctions are imposed, which may include suspension or expulsion. Additionally, most sanctions include counseling, study and remediation.
As a member of the IU teaching community at Jacobs, I know how committed and dedicated our faculty are to students. The faculty are supportive of students and will help in any way possible.
The university has gotten the word out about sexual assault, harassment, and violence. Faculty, staff and administrators receive frequent training, and posters about confidential reporting and ways to stop the cycle of violence appear throughout campus as well as here. The university has added a multitude of resources with staff, counseling and collaborations with campus police. Victims need to know that it is easy to ask for a meeting with a confidential advocate. If you are in that position, I hope you will turn to an advocate for support.
Teaching Professor, JSoM
A list of resources is available here if you or someone you know has experienced sexual harassment or abuse.