Many of us have been told to provide trigger warnings to protect students who have been harassed, sexually assaulted, or abused. In this episode, Nicole Bedera joins us to discuss a survivor-centered approach that includes and supports rather than excludes those who have been traumatized. Nicole is a PhD candidate in Sociology at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on gender and sexuality with an emphasis on college sexual violence.
John: Many of us have been told to provide trigger warnings to protect students who have been harassed, sexually assaulted, or abused. In this episode, we’ll discuss a survivor-centered approach that includes and supports rather than excludes those who have been traumatized.
John: Thanks for joining us for Tea for Teaching, an informal discussion of innovative and effective practices in teaching and learning.
Rebecca: This podcast series is hosted by John Kane, an economist…
John: …and Rebecca Mushtare, a graphic designer.
Rebecca: Together, we run the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at the State University of New York at Oswego.
Rebecca: Our guest today is Nicole Bedera. Nicole is a PhD candidate in Sociology at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on gender and sexuality with an emphasis on college sexual violence. Welcome, Nicole.
Nicole: Thank you. I’m excited to be here.
John: We’re really happy to have you here. Our teas today are…
Nicole: I’m not drinking tea. I just have water.
Rebecca: Right, being hydrated is good.
Nicole: Yeah, boring but useful, right?
Rebecca: Yeah, definitely. Speaking of boring, I have English afternoon.
John: Well, we’re back to a new normal, at least. [LAUGHTER] ??Normal. In this way, at least everything else may be different, but that’s still the same. And I have T forte blackcurrant tea today.
Rebecca: Ah, an old favorite.
John: It is. It’s a wonderful tea.
Rebecca: We invited you here today to discuss “Beyond Trigger Warnings: A Survivor-Centered Approach to Teaching on Sexual Violence and Avoiding Institutional Betrayal,“ an article you published in Teaching Sociology. In this article, you voiced concerns about the use of trigger warnings. Could you describe these concerns to our listeners?
Nicole: Yes. So my critique of trigger warnings is pretty different from the one that you hear most of the time because it’s very survivor focused. So instead of saying things like we often hear, “Well, trigger warnings are making people weak. If you’re strong enough or tough enough, the world is hard and we shouldn’t be sheltering our students so much.” If anything, I’m probably pro sheltering them a little bit more. A very different way, a very different way. My biggest concern about trigger warnings is they treat survivors like they’re the problem in a classroom. And the biggest problem about that is that it actually undermines the very spirit of Title IX. So what Title IX is about, it doesn’t actually say anything about sexual assault, it’s an issue of gender equity, it’s a sentence long, and the law says that regardless of sex, you should be able to have an equal education. And the reason that sexual assault and harassment comes into it is because it so commonly impacts women specifically, that was what they were arguing at the time. Now we know more, that it also affects a lot of trans, gender nonbinary folks, basically people who are not cisgender men are disadvantaged in their educations, because trauma makes it more difficult to interact. So trauma does things, like it affects the way that you form memories. And that’s why we see on college campuses that it’s so important for survivors to have access to stuff like academic accommodations, to be able to take that midterm a little later, because they actually just might need more time to study because of how trauma brain works. So the whole point of the way that we enact Title IX on college campuses is to make sure that having a history of trauma doesn’t get in the way of your ability to get good grades to get into graduate school, whatever else might be happening, to just pay attention to materials that are important to know. When we use trigger warnings in conversations about sexual assault, the way that usually happens is we tell survivors, “Hey, we’re going to be talking about sexual assault today, if that makes you uncomfortable, you are welcome to leave, you don’t have to come to class today.” Which means we’re asking them to forfeit their education for the comfort of all the other students in class. And so the centerpiece of this argument, that I’m making, is just we shouldn’t do that anymore. It doesn’t make any sense to tell survivors, “Hey, this issue that really affects you, and it’s really important, we don’t think you should be part of the conversation.” That’s not fair from an educational standpoint, or just an equity standpoint.
Rebecca: So what are some of the strategies we can use to include survivors and make them a central part of the conversation and dialogues that are happening in class rather than skirting them or brushing them away?
Nicole: Well, one of the most important things to recognize is that a lot of the things that make survivors upset in our classrooms have nothing to do with triggers. They’re better described as something called institutional betrayal. Institutional betrayal is when you go to someone who works for an institution for help. And instead of helping you they hurt you more. So often these things that are so upsetting for survivors are actually new traumas caused by their professors or other students in class. So when we’re talking about what to do to make survivors more comfortable, rather than saying, “Hey, leave the room, because I’m going to say things that upset you,” we could just stop saying things that will be upsetting, and instead take an approach to talking about sexual violence that is more inclusive of what survivors need to know, where we’re not saying things like, for example, rape myths, or other damaging stereotypes about sexual assault. And I’m a social scientist, I’m a sociologist, and a lot of this stuff just means telling the truth about sexual assault instead of propagating myths and lies that are throughout our society about sexual violence. And so for instructors, step one is knowing your stuff, is knowing what’s really true in these cases,
John: What specific things should instructors know to be prepared to address such issues?
Nicole: Oh, one of the things that a lot of instructors don’t seem to know, and I don’t even get into this in the article, so people listening to the podcast are really getting something special here. But, one of the things that instructors don’t seem to know is that false allegations are pretty rare. And so something that I’ve seen repeatedly happening in classrooms that can be really harmful is for example, setting up a debate where one person is going to take a pro-victim side and another person is going to take a pro-accused side. And these debates often turn into people saying, “But, I was falsely accused, or, “What if I was falsely accused? Don’t I deserve more protections? Don’t I deserve to be…” I don’t know, whatever it is that people are saying the accused students deserve in these cases. And that can be really traumatizing for survivors, because they’re not lying, false allegations are not common. And the entire classroom is being taught that you shouldn’t believe survivors when they come forward, that you should question them. And that instead of saying, our ideal response to sexual assault would be when a survivor comes forward and says, “Hey, something isn’t working for me in this classroom, something isn’t working for me on campus, I can’t sleep in my dorm because my perpetrator lives down the hall,” whatever it is, instead of everybody saying, “Hmm, but what if that’s a lie?” it would be better to just say, “Do you need to move dorms? Do you need help in your classes?” And so when survivors have to sit through things like the damaging myth of false allegations that’s going to inherently be harmful, especially coming from professors. Because professors are supposed to be the ones that are holding knowledge and sharing knowledge with other groups, we’re in quite a position of power in our classrooms, we’re often the one standing in front of maybe hundreds of students at a large university, telling them what the truth is. And so the ripple effect is not only on that victim, who’s saying, “Oh, wow, I didn’t realize that maybe a lot of people lie. And maybe I should feel guilty or ashamed and I shouldn’t tell people and they’re right to question me.” That’s something a survivor might feel. But also all of the other students in class are thinking, like, wow, victims lie, or these people call themselves victims lie, maybe I should be more suspicious. So it has a really big ripple effect across society. And this is something that I think is really central to college sexual assault in particular, because it’s not just that what happens in our classroom stays in our classrooms. We’re teaching young people, and sometimes not so young people, what to expect in the workplace, what is normal, and we can sort of see that ripple effect across society.
John: So the focus should be on providing support for the victims, and listening to them, and trying to make them more comfortable in the classroom.
Nicole: Yeah, that’s exactly it. And there are a lot of things that you can do to make survivors feel more comfortable. The first recommendation in the article is just, know your stuff. Stop telling lies about sexual violence in your classroom, it’s a really straightforward one. But survivors also have some other needs that can make them feel more comfortable when talking about difficult topics. And so things like letting everyone know in advance that it’s okay to have an emotional response to the material, and that people who are not survivors may also have an emotional response to the material. That can make survivors feel a lot more comfortable staying in the classroom. Because if you don’t set something like that up, survivors are going to feel like, if I cry, or if I get upset, everyone’s going to know that I’m a victim. And I don’t want everyone to know, I’m a victim. So maybe I should skip class today to keep that secret, especially if, say, the perpetrator is in their friend group, the perpetrator is in the class, which happens as much as we don’t like to think about. It’s better if they can just say, “You know what, it’s okay, if I’m emotional, and I can just fit in. And it doesn’t necessarily mean anything.” That can also help too, I mean, other students who aren’t survivors do feel uncomfortable if they get emotional about this stuff, as well. And one of the ways that they can sometimes, unintentionally, create a kind of difficult dynamic in the classroom is by them wanting to process their feelings as being, “Oh, it’s so hard for me, my friend was sexually assaulted.” And people who don’t have those experiences are often a lot more open with those stories than people who are victims themselves. And so they might, for example, tell the story of another student sitting in class and tell their story of sexual assault that maybe that student didn’t want to hear. And so when instead of saying, “All right, we’re not going to address the emotional component, we’re not going to set standards around how people feel in this classroom, anything can happen,” as opposed to saying, “It’s okay if you get upset, and we can talk about some of the things that made you upset. Also, while we’re on it, let’s be really cautious about not sharing people’s personal stories, because we want to make sure everybody gets to choose whether or not we know their stories and whether or not we talk about them as an educational exercise.” So things like that can just be really helpful, really, really helpful.
John: In the article, you also noted that just talking about the issue is not always a trigger, that there are many things that could serve as triggers, you mentioned, it could be the smell of certain gum that the perpetrator had been chewing or a song that was playing at the time of the attack. So it sounds as if triggers could happen at any time and we should be prepared for that possibility.
Nicole: Right. A lot of the way we talk about triggers is, again, using this pretty conservative logic that victims are so sensitive and so fragile. And so if you even mention sexual assault around them, they can’t handle it. So first of all, that’s not true. Lots of victims talk a lot about sexual assault, there’s a reason that therapy, for example, is healing instead of necessarily hurtful. If just the mention of sexual assault, the reminder it exists was hurtful, therapy would not be helpful, right? But on the other hand, there are lots of things that trigger a traumatic response that have nothing to do with sexual assault. And some of them are really unpredictable. I trained as a victim advocate and worked as a victim advocate before I came to graduate school. And in my training, one of the things that they told us was about the story of a survivor who thought she was making a lot of progress and healing from her trauma but then had this setback and she couldn’t identify why she was so upset all the time. And the reason was really simple: something had changed in her life. I don’t remember if she’d gotten a new apartment or a new job, what it was doesn’t matter. But she now had to walk by a KFC every day. And she’d been sexually assaulted behind a KFC. And so that smell of fried chicken was triggering a panicked response in her. And ironically enough, the rape crisis center I worked at was also next to a KFC. So coming into her sessions, she was also getting triggered. And that’s something that nobody ever could have guessed. So when choosing where the rape crisis center should be, they probably weren’t thinking, oh, but what if KFC moves in next door that can be triggering for victims, right? It’s not something you think about. And so instructors really should be prepared for if a survivor gets triggered in the classroom, if they get really upset, you don’t need to know why, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to make a huge adjustment. If it’s something that random, right, if it’s not your fault, if it’s something totally random, then that makes sense. But you do need to have ways to help survivors know what to do in that situation to say, “Hey, you know, if you do need to step out for a minute, that’s okay, you don’t owe me any information, you don’t have to apologize, you don’t have to explain your behavior if you are in a place where you are reliving your trauma, and you cannot pay attention, but it is fine to step away for a moment. And you can also rejoin class five minutes later, if you feel better,” which I think is something a lot of survivors don’t hear enough from their professors. They hear a lot of how to leave but not how to come back, or they worry that it’s too disruptive to come back. I want to add, too, that some of these triggers are a little bit more predictable. So for example, if the perpetrator is in the classroom, and the perpetrator is engaging in ways that are scary, or they’re even maybe whispering while the victim is trying to make a comment in class. That isn’t posing a direct threat in the moment, but it’s going to be a trigger of the assault. Or if the perpetrator’s friends are present or anything that’s going to be a constant reminder of the assault. And these are things that, again, to the instructor look totally random. Because you have no idea what the relationship is between your students, you have no idea why one student is uncomfortable or afraid in the presence of another. And so we do have to think about triggers. Instead of trying to say we’re going to control it and make sure they never happen in our classroom saying okay, we actually do need to know what to do when they happen to make sure that victims can still continue to learn in this classroom space.
Rebecca: In your article, you talk a lot about ways to set the tone at the beginning of class and in the syllabus. Can you talk a little bit about how to set that tone for the class so that students do know what to do if they are triggered, if there’s something that they want to reveal to you, ways that we can continue to support them and know that we’ll support them throughout the semester?
Nicole: Yeah, I have a couple of different things that I do at the beginning of the semester, depending on what the class is. I am a sexual violence researcher. I teach classes that are just on sexual violence every day, we talk about sexual violence in class. So in a class like that, I set the tone in a pretty different way, in a pretty intentional way where we start from the very beginning. I have them read a chapter about how difficult it is to do sexual violence research and hear these stories all the time. And it’s their first day’s homework, just in case they don’t have time to read it, I set aside some time in class to at least skim it and to talk through, not so much this is going to be a terrible experience, even though the chapter is a little hard to read, but just say: What makes you anxious? What are you nervous about? Let’s talk about it from the very beginning of the term. And then that turns into a class of, “Okay, so what do you need? When you feel those things, you’re afraid that you’re going to get overwhelmingly emotional in class, what would make you feel like you could stay in the classroom? What can we do as a community to make you feel comfortable?” Because if you don’t have a conversation, most people when someone starts crying next to them just feel awkward, especially if they don’t know them that well. And I will say that one of the things that happens in my classes, the students tend to get to know each other a lot better than they do in other classes, because these are really vulnerable conversations. And that can be nice for even just basic things like working on group projects, or studying for exams, so it’s kind of an unintended and positive consequence of this kind of conversation. We also watch a video where we talk about the importance of vulnerability and how to be able to address these feelings. We need to talk about vulnerability, it’s a Brené Brown video, many of the listeners have probably already seen it, it’s gone very, very viral very, very many times. But after that we talk about this idea of communal vulnerability. So instead of saying, “Okay, like, I need to think about what I do for myself,” which is something that I think we all tend to do when we think about some things can be overwhelming, we think about, okay, what about when it’s hard for me? And I try to turn the conversation to say, “What about when it’s hard for the person next to you?” So what do you need and what can you give? And that’s the conversation on day one in the classes where we’re talking about violence all the time. In classes like, intro to sociology, where we’re talking about sexual assault maybe one week out of the term, I still, on the first day of class, I don’t necessarily talk about sexual assault very much I do point it out on the syllabus to let people know, “Hey, there’s some stuff coming up in the class.” But I don’t just bring that up in sexual violence. We talk about a lot of different kinds of violence in my classes in general. So I’ll have the same conversation about something like police brutality to be like, “Hey, heads up, it’s coming.” And then, knowing that these tough topics are coming up, I will ask students, “All right, this stuff can be pretty controversial,” which is sort of a weird way of putting it, but, “this stuff can be controversial or hurtful or personal. And so what do you want to happen when conflict arises?” And I use that question to open the same conversation about, what do we do when we need someone to step in, because something bad happens? That’s really what it’s code for. And so even though we’re not explicitly talking about violence on the first day, which I try to avoid a little bit, because the students weren’t prepared, they didn’t know that was going to happen. So that can be pretty shocking. Instead, we still get to flesh out some of those norms around, what do we do if someone gets upset? When do you want me to intervene, as an instructor and say, “All right, actually, that wasn’t okay. And we’re not going to tolerate that kind of statement, or whatever it is in the classroom.” And yeah, it’s worked pretty well. Even distance learning, during the pandemic, I was surprised by how well it worked in some of my classes.
Rebecca: One of the questions that I think often comes up where we’re talking about any sorts of inclusive pedagogy or trauma informed pedagogy are kind of two things. One is, I don’t teach a class where these are topics. So how do I set the stage in a class like that? And then the other thing that comes up is, I’m not a counselor. So how am I supposed to deal with this? So can you address those two common concerns that people have?
Nicole: Yeah, so one thing we know about sexual violence and trauma is it doesn’t turn off just because you’re in math class, like, it doesn’t just go away. And so regardless of what topic you’re teaching, a lot of professors are going to hear this stuff. And a lot of the stuff that I cover in the article about things like students coming to you and telling you they’re a survivor in office hours. That happens, especially to women faculty, regardless of discipline, and so you do need to still be prepared for it. And that’s going to be the same case for like graduate student instructors, they come to you, they find you more comfortable than their professors a lot of the time. And so some things that you can do is just include some syllabus statements that have resources covered. A lot of schools do require a syllabus statement already talking about what Title IX is and your Title IX rights. And I remember being a student when this stuff was introduced on college campuses. The first year it was in my alma mater’s syllabus statement requirement, I was in my senior year. And so many of the professors complained about it, or they dismissed it and they said, “We’re not going to cover this because it’s not important to the class.” And for a survivor sitting there, that sends a pretty clear message that they can’t come to you when they need help, that you don’t know what to do, that maybe what happened to them isn’t important. And so one thing you can do is just actually talk about the syllabus statements. And you know, you don’t have to like them, either, I’ll say that. And I’m going to say specifically, you don’t have to like them and think that they’re sufficient. I don’t. And so when I talk to students about them, I actually explicitly say, “So this statement is here. And I’m not going to read it, because I don’t think that it covers everything that you need to know. But I’ve included these other resources that I think are important. So we’re going to talk about when you need this stuff, if anyone in this class needs the stuff, here’s what’s in the syllabus. And do you have any questions?” And that’s something I ask a lot. Has anybody ever actually read the Title IX statement? And if they did, do you know what Title IX is? Do you know what the office offers? Do you know where the victim advocacy office is? So anybody, regardless of discipline, can have that conversation on the first day. The other thing you can do, again, you don’t have to couch all of this in discussing sexual violence, like you can just do this to be a compassionate instructor, but to tell students how you can handle whatever concerns might come up. Whether it’s something like a family member getting sick, or you needing to be hospitalized for a period of time, or, yeah, sexual assault to set a standard of this is how you can come to me with these questions, this is how you can talk to me if you need something, if there’s a problem. And to set some expectations around, you don’t have to tell me what happened to you. This is just how you can get help if you need it. You don’t owe me your traumatic story to get help. And so that’s one thing I would recommend, as well as just being aware that if you’re seeing a dynamic between students that seems disruptive or uncomfortable, being prepared to check in, say, “Hey, what’s going on,” and knowing that, for example, if you have a victim and perpetrator in the same class, the perpetrator is going to lie to you. And they’re going to make it sound like the victim is the one who has the problem. So being prepared to sort of parse out some of those difficulties, which might mean bringing in someone more qualified than you. Which brings me to the second half of your question: If I’m not a counselor, I don’t want to talk about this stuff. So what do I do? I actually think that’s perfectly fine. I think it’s perfectly fine when a student comes to you, and they’re looking for help to say, “Hey, I support you. And I want you to get everything you need. And also the things that you’re asking for do require the help of someone who knows what they’re doing. And that’s not me.” And there’s absolutely nothing wrong in saying, “I will help you find the resources available on campus.” And this is a conversation that I just don’t think you should have to have with a professor. And a lot of the victims, so in my research, I interview victims about their experiences seeking help on campus. And one of the things they bring up the most is they’re just really, really nervous that their professors will think differently of them and they’re nervous they’re going to have to tell the story of their sexual assault. A lot of them do not want to tell you, they’re telling you because they feel like they have to to get you to give them help. And so if you make really clear, I don’t need to hear the story, I do want to help you. And you can even say things like, “I’m not a counselor, but here is what I can offer.” Because it’s really dismissive, if you just say, “I’m not a counselor, I’m not helping you.” But if instead you say, “I am not a counselor, but I can connect you to a counselor, I can tell you where they are on campus, or in the community, or wherever. And also, if you need anything in my class, here’s a template, for example, for how you can email me. You can be like, hey, Professor Bedera, I really need an extension, I’m having a hard time with this assignment. And we can set up in advance how much information you need to share, or whatever it is.” So make sure when you’re saying, “I’m not a counselor, and I can’t help you with the emotional help that you need,” to make sure you offer something too.
Rebecca: One of the things that you also mentioned, Nicole, is that that labor is a little more heavy on female faculty. Can you talk a little bit about managing that labor and the emotional toll that might take on faculty and maybe what faculty members who are experiencing hearing a lot of these stories can do?
Nicole: Yeah, you need to take care of yourselves, especially because we know that a lot of faculty are survivors themselves of campus sexual assault, or perhaps are being sexually harassed right now. They have survivors coming to them for help and they are experiencing the betrayals of the institution themselves as faculty. That’s a really difficult position to be in. So it’s really important to take care of yourself. And so one of the things that’s actually came from an R&R, so thank you reviewers for pushing me to include this in the article. But one of the things that I talk about is my own sort of ritual for self care, because I share these stories all the time. I also, because I cover these issues of violence pretty explicitly, hear about lots of other types of violence my students are experiencing all the time. And it does, it takes a toll you get exhausted and just sad. It just feels heavy. And then it does start to get into your head of like, okay, so how do I come back to class and pile on? Especially in a discipline like sociology, where we’re not really known for bringing good news to our students. And so some of the things that I do, is just in general I sort of have some supports in place, I have other faculty, graduate students, friends, who I can chat with about these things. I think it’s a good idea to keep these conversations pretty power neutral. So if you’re a faculty, go to other faculty, don’t go to your graduate students, if you’re a graduate student, maybe your advisor can help you but also, you’ll probably be able to speak more openly to other graduate students. So make sure that you’re thinking about the power dynamics involved there, too. And so for me, studying sexual violence, I mostly hang out with other sexual violence researchers when talking about this kind of stuff, because it’s really easy to talk to each other. You don’t have to back up and explain something, which is another thing to think about when you’re choosing who you’re using as your support system. Maybe somebody who is a good friend doesn’t know very much about this stuff. And so you find yourself having to educate them the whole way and that’s pretty tiring. So if your support system isn’t working for you, and it’s more tiring than it is useful, find someone else. But that support is really, really helpful for me, just as a regular thing that exists. And then I also have some stuff where when I’m sort of in an emergency, when something particularly bad happened, I have my short term measures to see if it’ll fix it, which are a lot of traditional self care, kind of things. Like I eat mac and cheese after a bad day, just always, that goes back to my victim advocacy days. But I also do things like, dating back to my victim advocacy days, they talked about the importance of having a ritual, especially when one of the things that victim advocates will do is they’ll manage crisis lines. So if you’ve ever seen those numbers, maybe you put them on your syllabus to say, “This is who you call, if you need to talk to someone.” That’s something that I did as a victim advocate, and you’re doing that often in your home. And so just like we’re teaching in our homes, a lot of us still are right now, it can be hard to get that separation at the end of the day. So they taught us about the importance of a ritual. And it sounded so hokey to me, because the person who I was talking to said, “Oh, I wash my hands after every call to tell myself it’s over and I can relax.” Oh my God, that would not work. I’m not doing that. But then I started working in the hospitals where, yeah, I washed my hands after every time I left the hospital because of germs. And the one night that I forgot to wash my hands was the one night I couldn’t sleep, it makes such a huge difference. So my research assistants, the people I talk about this the most with and they’ve come up with a bunch of different things that they do, as just sort of that, wow, that was kind of heavy. And I need to give myself a mental break. So some of them will get a cup of tea, is actually on the list.
Rebecca: It’s a good choice.
Nicole: Yeah, exactly. It’s a good choice, or a glass of water, or take a walk around the block, or text a specific friend, or pet an animal, whatever it might be. Just something that will tell you, “Okay, this is fine.” But sometimes that won’t be enough. Sometimes these little rituals that we have these things that we do for self care will not be adequate. And so in those cases, it’s important to do the harder hitting stuff, like speaking to a therapist, maybe calling one of these crisis lines and asking for some assistance, getting some validation, and they’ll have some ideas of people who you can talk to. And then the stuff that’s really boring about self care too, like, maybe there’s just a lot on your plate right now and that’s why you don’t have time or emotional energy to think about this stuff. And so, that to-do list of things that we all don’t get through like making a doctor’s appointment, or paying your bills, or whatever, like doing some of that stuff so that you have mental space to think through those things. That stuff is really, really important. And then also just to be honest with yourself and check in with yourself. If you are a survivor, about: How do I feel about this? Am I projecting onto the student? Am I doing a good job caring for them? Or am I actually making it a little bit worse? And so that’s actually where the boundary setting becomes important again, because as much as you might want to be there for your students, if you yourself are triggered, you can’t be, you’re going to end up hurting them instead. And so instead of just forcing yourself to get through that meeting, saying, “Hey,” you don’t have to tell them why, but just, “I don’t think I’m the best person for this conversation, and I want to support you, but can I help you find someone who will be able to support you better?” And it’s so important to take care of yourself as much as you’re taking care of your students.
John: One of the things that comes up in your article is the issue of institutional betrayal. Could you talk a little bit about some of the ways in which that shows up in practice, and perhaps what faculty could do to encourage the institution to move in a better direction on these issues?
Nicole: Yeah, that’s a really good question to ask right now. Because actually, the Biden administration is making huge changes to the way Title IX and campus sexual assault are managed. So far, it’s been kind of a quiet process, there have been some survivor listening sessions, but not a whole lot else is happening, at least that the public can see. So they’re doing a lot of things behind closed doors, making conversations about what to do next. But it’s something you should keep an ear to the ground for. Because if there are things you really care about, policy is being made. And so, for example, a lot of sexual assault researchers, including myself, have signed on to petitions to try to get rid of the mandatory reporting requirement, because it doesn’t serve survivors, it hurts them. Survivors need to be in control of what happens when they tell their stories, not be forced into an investigation or talking to the police or whatever else is happening on college campuses. They need the right to choose. And so this is a really good moment to think about things like contacting your legislators, sending a little email to the Department of Education, as well as the Title IX staff at your school because a lot of them are involved in these conversations. And they have the connections to people who are really involved in these conversations. So if you care about this stuff, speak up. So that’s thing number one, to address institutional betrayal, but I mentioned at the beginning that institutional betrayals are new traumas, they are similar in severity to a sexual assault itself. So if you’re wondering how important or bad this is, it’s really bad, it’s really, really bad. Before we had the term institutional betrayal, a lot of people got at the same idea by calling it the second rape. And there they were talking specifically about the criminal justice system, and the way that it defiled survivors and institutional betrayals a little bit broader. But yeah, the idea is that a university, which is where this comes from, but really any institution’s action, or inaction, can be just as traumatizing as the assault itself. And so some of the things that come up are things, like, survivors being punished for telling their stories. So if we put this in the context of a classroom, if a survivor discloses to you, say in an essay, that they were sexually assaulted, and then you call the police, which they didn’t want, that can feel like a punishment. Or if you get awkward around them, and you don’t call on them in class anymore, you treat them like they’re super fragile, and they can’t handle anything, that’s going to feel like a punishment for disclosing. Some survivors, also, I can think of cases from my research, where if a survivor was accusing another faculty member of sexual assault, the faculty in that department would retaliate against them and treat them poorly. So that’s a form of punishment, too. And so there are a lot of things that we are doing as faculty that are hurting survivors in a new way. And so a really important thing is to think about things from the perspective of that student, think about what they need, put yourself back in the shoes of being a student. And about maybe you look at them, and you say, “Well, they’re not handling my policies right. My syllabus says that they need to contact me in this way. And the way that they ask for accommodations was wrong.” Instead of thinking that way, remember how overwhelming it is to be a college student, remember that the norms of academia are foreign to you and might be a little bit harder to learn if you were dealing with trauma at the same time, and to be gentle about it. But yeah, when I think about institutional betrayals that happened in classrooms, a lot of them really are around mandatory reporting, which is part of why I bring it up. And it’s one of the questions that I get most often is: I want to help survivors, but I’m a mandatory reporter. So what can I do aside from just report them? And in these cases, in the article I do not pull any punches here, I just say: don’t do it, defy your campus policies. Sometimes the policies are unjust, and you shouldn’t follow them just because it’s the rules. If you know that it’s hurting someone, use your better judgment. But this is also again, a really important time to think about these things that your survivor activists on campus, every campus has them, every single one across the country, including some of the more conservative religious schools, you wouldn’t expect. I went to undergrad in Utah and I’m going to tell you that BYU has survivor activists making a lot of noise on their campus, and they can tell you what they need. And so listen to them and support them, especially in these moments. It’s so weird to talk about this stuff right now, from a federal policy standpoint, because campus sexual violence is in this strange gray area where the Biden administration hasn’t completely repealed what the Trump administration did, but they’re not enforcing all of it, but they kind of are. And the Trump administration’s rules were really, really vague. And so there were a lot of things that schools could do, but they could also choose not to. So right now universities have a huge amount of latitude in how they want to handle this stuff, they don’t really have the excuse of saying, “Oh, the federal government says that we can’t do X, Y, or Z for survivors.” In most cases, they can probably give survivors exactly what they’re looking for. And so as faculty, we can really support survivor activists in doing things. One of my favorite ways that survivors can get help from faculty, is we understand the complex web of bureaucracy on college campuses. So if you have a student in your class, who is really excited about survivor advocacy, they’ve been doing activism on campus, and they just can’t seem to find the right person to direct their concerns at, you can probably identify, “Actually, it’s this person in the dean of students office that needs to hear what you’re saying,” or, “This is the email for the Title IX coordinator,” or whatever it is, really small things. But one thing we all need to be doing right now is just holding our universities accountable. Because as much as they say that they take sexual violence seriously, I think anyone who spent time on a campus for very long knows that they would really prefer to not have to deal with these cases, to not have to discuss these things, to just be able to go back to ignoring sexual violence like they did 15 years ago. And the best thing we can do is just make that hard on them and say, “No, we’re not, we’re not going to ignore survivors, we’re going to do the right thing and support them.” Especially because a lot of the survivors never would have met their assailants unless we looked the other way at fraternity parties, unless we looked the other way for whatever the football team decides to do, we’re all sort of complicit in this. And that’s why the institutional betrayals run so deep. And that’s the other thing about institutional betrayal is whether or not it’s fair, survivors don’t understand these bureaucracies. They don’t know who is responsible for these decisions. And I can’t tell you how many survivors I’ve interviewed who said that they distrusted their professors because of decisions made by Title IX, or the Dean of students office, or whatever other organization on campus. And so a lot of your students are coming to your classroom already from a place of distrust, not knowing who will take care of them and who will not. And so making really clear that if you’re going to make those promises to be there for survivors, you really do need to get up for them, even when it can be difficult. And you have to earn that trust from the very beginning.
Rebecca: One thing that we haven’t covered, but seems very important to cover is how common sexual assault is on campuses.
Nicole: It is very, very common. There are so many different types of numbers that I can throw your way. But I’m going to give you three statistics that I just think everybody should know. One, everybody on a college campus should know at least, and one of them is just the number you’ve probably heard before, which is that one in five women on college campuses will be sexually assaulted. And one in five is actually one of the more conservative estimates coming from the research world. It uses, we’re going to get a little technical, and so we’re going to go for it, it uses cross sectional data. So for anybody who’s not a social scientist, that is when researcher comes in, and they give a survey out to every student, it doesn’t matter if they’ve been on campus for four years or one week, and they ask them about their sexual assault experiences. So it would stand to reason that those students who’ve been on campus for a year or less still might be sexually assaulted if we were to follow them all the way through. In the most harrowing studies, they do follow students all the way through their sexual assault experiences all the way through college. And that captures not only students who otherwise, they would have gotten that questionnaire before they were assaulted maybe a year later, but also students who at the end might have downplayed or minimized something that happened to them because people on campus suggested they should. And so that wasn’t captured in the data either. So when we look at this type of data, when we look at asking students across all of their time in college about sexual assault, and asking them every year, we find that the number might be closer to one in three. So it’s a lot more common than even your campus sexual assault prevention trainings are probably telling you. The other number that I think is really important to know, and I guess as an addition, on to that number, we don’t have a ton of great data about the experiences of people who are not cisgender women. But we do know that sexual assault is more common among trans students. It is more common among queer women in particular. And even among cisgender men, estimates say that it’s happening pretty often not as often as the other groups, but it’s still happening pretty often. There’s some difficulties in defining it, the studies are a little messy. But yeah, it’s happening across campus. If you look across a lecture hall, a lot of students and you picture, on average, about a third of your students have been sexually assaulted while in school. This does not include childhood sexual abuse, this does not happen to them in high school before they got to college. You’re talking about a lot of survivors in your classroom. It’s not one challenging student, it’s not one difficult student. And so if you really are telling students, “Hey, if you’re a sexual assault survivor, and you can’t handle it, leave,” it’s surprising we don’t often see a third of students getting up and walking out. But the other number that I want to comment on and again, I keep bringing this up, because it’s something we don’t like to think about is the perpetration rate. And the best study that we have so far finds that 1 in 10 men on college campuses committed sexual assault before they graduate. So the perpetrators are very much in the midst as well. Everybody involved in sexual assaults will be in your classroom at one point or another. Statistically speaking, you can’t avoid it. And I’ll add one more thing too, which is that all of this research is on undergraduates, and the little bit of research we have now about graduate students finds that graduate students are the most likely to be sexually harassed or assaulted on campus.
Rebecca: With those disturbing facts in mind, what is the psychological and academic consequences of victims being triggered again and again, or being victims of institutional betrayal throughout their college education?
Nicole: Anybody who’s really interested in this question should go to Know Your IX’s website and read their new report that came out just a month ago, maybe two months ago, called “The Cost of Reporting.” And it gets into the experience of institutional betrayal specifically. And what we find is that survivors who have been betrayed in comparison to other survivors are more likely to drop out, they are more likely to have a lower GPA. I actually read a paper that if the findings, we’ll see if they’re replicated, but if they hold would suggests that a woman experiencing sexual assault is the best predictor of her college GPA. Because whether or not she experienced sexual assault, that’s a better predictor than the SAT, it’s a better predictor than high school GPA. So we know that the impact on education is really, really significant. And that’s a big part of why professors should care about it. Survivors are having a really hard time in all of our classes. I’m really glad you asked this question because everybody sort of assumes, oh, sexual assault is bad. We know rape is bad. But if you ask people why they often can’t put a finger on it. And so I’m going to do that for you. I’m going to tell you exactly why sexual assault is wrong. And so I’m going to start with the stuff you know, which is, it is psychologically distressing, survivors are more likely to have difficulties with things like sleep, they’re more likely to have anxiety, depression, PTSD symptoms, like flashbacks, uncontrollable sort of psychological reactions and distress, and they have a hard time with things like feeling comfortable with sex as well. But there are also a lot of other impacts of sexual violence we don’t talk about as much. One is chronic health problems. Survivors are a lot more likely to have chronic headaches and chronic back aches than other populations. I also know of survivors, some of these things are a little bit more difficult to tease out, but who they know individually, that their sexual assault led them to have other chronic health problems. I knew one survivor, one of the ways that she managed the trauma for sexual assault was through controlling her eating, which is pretty common is for survivors to develop eating disorders. But hers was so severe that she had created lesions on her throat that were precancerous. And so she’s having conversations with oncologists about how likely she is to develop cancer in her early 20s. And this is directly related to the way that she was managing the stress of her sexual assault and the trauma of her sexual assault. So chronic health conditions play a really big role as well. There is a huge financial impact for being sexually assaulted. It’s going to affect your career trajectory, especially if you are on a college campus. This is research I want to do but have not done yet, is to describe a little more about how that happens. We know that it affects things like lifetime earnings, but we don’t know for example, if sexual assault makes survivors want to change their majors to get away from their perpetrators or to get to places that are more friendly to survivors, which will probably, if you’re a woman, going to end up to be more feminine majors on campus, the ones where they’re a lot more women in the room might feel more comfortable. And so anecdotally, I’ve heard a lot of that kind of stuff in my research, but jury’s still out on whether or not it’s a really huge issue, but even if it’s one survivor that matters. And then the other thing I’ll say is that sexual assault, once you’ve been victimized, you’re at a higher risk of being victimized again, especially if you are hearing blaming comments, especially if you come to think that it is your responsibility to prevent sexual assault. In my research I’ve heard so many stories of survivors who when they were in a dangerous situation recognized it but thought it was their responsibility to change their perpetrators behavior, felt like they kind of had to freeze and just sit through it because of those blaming comments. And this is a really important thing to pull out too, is that this is a scary list. But access to supportive resources, to a supportive community can make it less likely that survivors have to experience all of these impacts, they are not a given, they’re not part of the trauma, they’re part of the institutional betrayal, they’re part of the response to trauma. And then the last one that we talk a lot, interestingly enough, about how being accused of sexual assault, anecdotally has led to suicidal ideation. There’s no research to support that, necessarily, the two are connected, but it’s the phrase that we hear a lot in our society, is accusing someone of sexual assault could end their life. But in reality, we do know that survivors are at a very high risk of suicide in the aftermath of sexual assault. And that intensifies after institutional betrayal. This feeling of not only did my perpetrator hurt me, but other people are going to continue to hurt me and no one cares, and if this happens again no one will do anything about it. That’s a really heavy burden to be on survivors. And that kind of thinking, that kind of nobody cares, nobody at my university is going to do anything to support me, that is something that professors contribute to so it’s a really important one for us to think about. It’s a heavy list.
John: It is.
Rebecca: I’m feeling the weight of it.
Nicole: Yeah, it’s sort of worse than we even usually hear about. And it does come up in really small ways too. So I used to work with a program that taught fraternity men around campus sexual violence and it was intended to prevent campus sexual violence. And I was having the hardest time getting through to them, as you can imagine, and I was working with a really challenging fraternity. This fraternity was the reason the prevention program was implemented because they used to use gang rape as a hazing ritual. And it had been long enough, since that was happening, that the current brothers and the fraternity wasn’t that long ago, it was less than10 years, but none of them were students at the time. And so they were really angry that they still had to sit through these prevention trainings, and they just didn’t get why this stuff mattered. And in one particularly tense encounter, one of them said to me, “Nobody even cares about this anymore. Everyone has moved on.” And I was just thinking, the victims of your fraternity have not moved on. They’re not done feeling this, they probably will never fully escape what this fraternity did to them. And I went home, and I got on Facebook, and I wrote, just to my friends, “Hey, I’m working with this fraternity,” sort of explained the situation, said they’re not getting it, “Would any of you record a message for them if you were sexually assaulted at least five years ago?” which is how long it had been since the last gang rape, “If you were sexually assaulted five years ago, will you record a message saying how it still affects you today.” So a few of my friends sent in recordings for them, I actually still use these in classes with the consent of the survivors. Some of them, some have withdrawn consent, I don’t use those anymore. But they listened to the first one and they felt really uncomfortable, but nobody’s really saying anything, like one guy was kind of pushing back and being, like, “Well that’s just one story.” And they listened to the second one. And it was the third one that kind of broke them. And one of the men who was getting really emotional, the detail that stood out to him was that the victim had described how in the aftermath of her sexual assault, one of the ways that she coped, I forgot to mention this one, was through alcohol and drug abuse. And that had really impacted her grades. We kind of know this, that our students are going to parties on a regular basis, some of them are going to be good students, and some of them you know, if you’re hungover in class, you’re not getting the material. And so that’s sort of how she framed it. She was like, I was not a great student, because I was abusing substances, not the language she would use. But she said that she wanted to go to law school, and that studying for the LSAT was so stressful, because to be able to get in now, because her grades were so bad, she needed a near perfect score. And this man who was getting emotional said, “I’m studying for the LSAT. And I used to go to class hungover because I was partying in this fraternity and people like my brothers from a few years ago, were the ones who put her in the situation. And I know how stressful it is. I know how hard this is. And it is so unfair that I made the decision to blow off my academics and she didn’t.” Those little details, I think, really helped us understand what exactly the stakes are for survivors. Usually we talk about this stuff sort of in the abstract because it’s more comfortable, it’s so personal, it’s so scary. But hearing the weight of all of this is really important. I’m glad you asked.
Rebecca: I think those personal stories are what really helps people connect to the data, the data is really easy to ignore, if it feels really abstract.
Nicole: Yeah, I mean, it’s one of the reasons the Me Too movement has been so powerful, because when you hear about sexual assault survivors, maybe watch a True Crime documentary here and there. These are not people you know. It’s not the same experience as getting onto your own social media profile and seeing someone who you thought you were really close to, and realizing that they had the secret that they were holding to themselves, and that they were sexually assaulted and realizing, oh, wow, maybe I actually said some things in front of them that were not supportive because I didn’t realize there was a survivor in the room. And that’s something that I really just think we should all be thinking about more often is most of the time there is a survivor in the room. The problem is so widespread, it is so everywhere, that even when we’re talking about just campus sexual assault, if that was the only time sexual assault happened in anyone’s lifetimes, chances are, if there are 10 people in a room, there’re going to be some survivors, multiple, present. And yeah, we don’t really think about the personal stories very much. And we don’t really think about how, the other thing, maybe the gem that comes out of all of my classes, my students say this thing that resonates with them the most, is that we’re all really comfortable supporting survivors in the abstract. Maybe we don’t do it because we don’t realize how important it is but we’re willing to do it. The messiness, and it’s why I keep bringing it up, is when there’s a perpetrator, who you also know. That’s when people start to turn because the uncomfortable reality is that we all do know and love a rapist. They are in our inner circle just as much. Again, assuming all sexual violence happens on college campuses, which it does not, it’s 1 in 10 men. And so the idea that we only have survivors around and we don’t have any perpetrators, and that what they want will not come into conflict is the difficult part. And this is something that I’ve seen play out in the classroom over and over and over again, is this idea of, well, I have both students in my class. And I want to be fair equally to both students. And that’s not really a fair position to take, because there’s such a big power disparity between the two of them. What a rapist wants, which may be also to use your class to control and humiliate and harm their victim, that does happen, if that’s what they want you can’t really put that in comparison to a victim who just wants to get their degree and get out of there, which is what most of them really do want to do. And so yeah, it’s messy. It’s messy, and it’s personal, and parsing out all of the difficulties of, really the hard stuff that you have to do when a survivor comes to you and says, “I need something.” It’s not always an easy decision, especially if you haven’t thought in advance about what you’re going to do in a situation like that one.
Rebecca: That’s a lot of things for us to be thinking about as we prepare for the fall and get ready for this semester, what resources we might want to have bookmarked on our computers, things that we want to put in our syllabus how we might want to handle setting the stage the first day.
Nicole: Yeah, definitely. I’m glad that this podcast is dropping when it is, because thinking about this stuff from the beginning of the semester is a lot easier than if something comes up in the middle and you’ve never thought about it. It can be so stressful and overwhelming, I get lots of panicked emails from people that are, like, “Oh my God, I’ve never thought about this, what do I do?” And it’s in those moments that we don’t know what to do that we sort of fall back on what’s culturally normative. And in our society, that’s usually the side of the perpetrator. We don’t like to think about it but that’s true, that’s the way our society operates. Or, to just say, “This is too difficult and I’m not going to do anything.” Inaction is what we’ve all been trained to do in these cases. And so thinking through in advance some of the things that you can do, resources you can draw upon. And even just the way that if you need a minute, what sentence you’re going to say, to tell someone that you need some time to think this through, and that you’re going to go explore some options. And to know in advance, who am I going to ask? It should not be your school Title IX coordinator, it should not be the people who you’ve been taught on your campus are the ones that can answer these questions. And the reason for that is because they have conflicting roles, it’s a conflict of interest. All of these organizations on campus are also trying to protect the university. And so they’re going to be thinking about things, like, what causes liability in the classroom? which isn’t necessarily what’s best for survivors. And so if you’re thinking about who you should ask on campus, the people you should ask are the victim advocates. It really is, if you have campus victim advocates, or even community victim advocates that you can reach out to, that is where I would start because they’re the true experts on sexual violence, as are the survivors themselves. When you’re sort of in a lurch you can turn to your students and say, “You don’t have to have an answer to this question. But in case you do, do you know what you need? Do you know what exactly what you’re looking for? And again, if you don’t know, we can figure it out together. And I can come to you with a lot of options.” One thing that campus victim advocates do all the time is they create options where survivors didn’t think there were any and so it’s normal for survivors to not know what they want, and to not know what’s available, especially if most of the time when they’ve been asking for help, they haven’t been getting it, that lowers their expectations over and over. This is the subject of my dissertation. But to be able to say, “I know where I’m going to go. And I’m going to take your input because I recognize who the true experts on sexual violence are on this campus,” is a really good place to start. Most professors are not experts on issues of sexual violence. And it can be really uncomfortable for us when we’re supposed to be the keepers of knowledge to say to our students, “I don’t know something,” or, “I’ve made a mistake.” But those are things you should get really, really comfortable with. Because to do anything else, to try to maintain your power in the classroom, to try to make yourself look like the all-knower or whatever it is, can be really damaging. And so practice, get comfortable in your head with how you’re going to say to a survivor, “I really messed up,” and “I am so sorry.” Or if something happens in your classroom, we haven’t talked about this very much, but sometimes the problem is not you. The problem is other students were making victim-blaming comments or something like that in a class discussion. And professors often say, “I didn’t know how to handle that situation.” That’s an okay response. It is okay, when that’s happening, to interrupt and say, “I don’t know how to handle this. I do not know how to handle this. And I’m worried that if this conversation continues, it could be really harmful. We’re going to take a break. I’m going to take a few minutes to collect my thoughts.” And maybe in some cases, even ending class early and then addressing it when you come back. You do have to address it if you do that, you can’t just move on and pretend it never happened that is so awkward, and it does send the message that you’re not comfortable talking about sexual violence, you’re not comfortable supporting survivors. But if you don’t know what to do, instead of just sort of making it up as you go, sometimes it is better to just say, “Actually, I’m going to seek an expert here.” And that’s really, really important. We are pretty lucky as professors, because on a lot of campuses, there are experts who are available and trained to help you again, it’s not going to be your Title IX coordinator, they are going to give you the basic legalistic spiel about the mandatory reporting policy and what is available. But if you reach out to the campus victim advocate and say, “This happened in my classroom, what do I do,” a lot of victim advocates will come to your next class, they will facilitate that discussion, you can have the expert in the room, you don’t have to be the one to do it if it’s making you uncomfortable. Victim advocates often can be requested to come into some of these spaces, if you’re holding an event or something that’s on campus sexual violence. They’re very busy, and they’re very under-resourced across the board, across the university. So you might not want to make a habit of bringing them into every discussion because that’s taking something away from survivors on the other end, but even to say, “Hey, for the last five minutes of class, we’re going to have a victim advocate come by and pass out some flyers and they’ll be here if you need to talk.” That’s something that a lot of them are very happy to do. And so we’re very, very lucky. We don’t have to do this on our own.
Rebecca: That’s a really good reminder, Nicole, for sure.
Nicole: It’s funny, right before this, I was working on my book manuscript and I was writing about how under-resourced victim advocates are. And one thing that was striking me is that they get kind of hidden away, that as much as faculty on a regular basis saying, “Hey, we want information about what to do,” very rarely do the victim advocates, especially without somebody there to, like, keep them in line, very rarely do we get to talk to them as faculty. We might get an email from them saying, “Hey, a student needs something,” and you’re very polite and professional back, one would hope. But we don’t actually think of them as experts on sexual violence who could come into our classroom or answer our questions, and they really are. And that actually is another thing you can do that every single one of us listening can do to support survivors on our campuses, every victim advocacy office in the country is under-resourced. And it’s not because universities lack the resources, but because there isn’t enough pressure to allocate them to victim advocacy. So something you could do now is say, “Hey, we really want another victim advocate, doesn’t matter how many you have, let’s add one more.” Or, “Let’s make sure that they have a space that works for them. Let’s make sure they’re in a place that’s comfortable that students can go to.” But think about ways that you can support the people who support victims.
Rebecca: So that’s a lot to think about.
Nicole: Yes. [LAUGHTER]
Rebecca: There’s a lot here. But we always wrap up by asking, what’s next?
Nicole: I hope that everybody goes and makes some changes to their syllabus, looks up some crisis lines and things like that in your local area to add. That’s a really simple thing you can do today and it does not take a lot of energy or effort. So at least do that. I also hope that everybody thinks about, okay, as I was listening to the podcast, some things were a little close to home, or maybe that could be useful and think about integrating it into your classes. So that’s obvious, thinking about, how can I change my first day activities? How can I prepare for discussions that go awry? things like that. If you’re looking for some more specific examples, there are a lot more in the article that I wrote too, so you can go take a look at that as the thing that’s next. And actually, the entire issue of Teaching Sociology that it came out in, is about teaching issues of sex and sexuality. So the whole thing is great, and you can read the whole thing. But in terms of supporting survivors themselves, I’m going to harp again, on that now is a really politically important moment to change the federal policy, to change the rules about how survivors are supported. And under the Trump administration, a lot of support for survivors were rolled back. And a lot of things happened that made it more difficult for people to support survivors in the way that they need. And so this is a really, really great time to, again, contact your representatives. Title IX is great. It’s what we have. And so it’s better than nothing to have the federal government coming in and saying, “We want you to take care of sexual assault survivors in this way.” But it’s not very specific. It’s a federal regulation so the guidance is more of recommendations rather than laws, it all gets adjudicated in the courts, it’s not a very strong piece of legislation, the way that it’s being enacted. So something that a lot of advocates are pushing for right now is to get Congress to pass a more comprehensive set of rules and regulations about how to protect survivors on campus. And that would be really nice because it can also sidestep some of these uncomfortable conversations that have come up in the past year, some things that the Trump administration did that were huge steps backward and are moving us in the wrong direction. So for example, you probably haven’t heard of this one, but under the Trump administration, there is a way for perpetrators of sexual assault to remove their confessions from evidence and Title IX cases. That is currently the regulation, even if a perpetrator has confessed to what they have done, there are ways for them to take that confession back. And so stuff like that is really difficult to walk around to some degree, the Biden administration could just say, “We’re not going to keep it,” but then the next president could put it right back in place. It’s very unstable and survivors are really depending on elections for support. So one thing you can do is go to your legislators and say, “It’s really past time to pass reforms for campus sexual assault, and here’s some organizations you should look to, like End Rape on Campus and Know Your IX.” Make some noise on your campus, go to your campus offices and say that you care. If you talk about this with other faculty, the more names that are on the petition saying that you want a space at the table that you want to change something specific, the better. And, yeah, it’s a reminder, a lot of the things that your school is doing and saying is the law, like mandatory reporting, is not the law. You don’t have to be on a campus that does mandatory reporting. It’s not required. And so if stuff like that bothers you, let your campus know.
Rebecca: Well, thank you, Nicole, for a really informative conversation. And I hope that many faculty start thinking about these things in a different way than they have in the past.
Nicole: Yeah, thank you for having me and I hope this was useful.
John: If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast service. To continue the conversation, join us on our Tea for Teaching Facebook page.
Rebecca: You can find show notes, transcripts and other materials on teaforteaching.com. Music by Michael Gary Brewer.