To address the recent increase in tension regarding sexual assault, like the #MeToo campaign on social media, USC student group Trojans Against Sexual Assault hosted a “healing night” on Monday, the first such event in the club’s history.
“Many students come into college thinking about the chance of sexual assault, expecting the school to respond,” said Kegan Allee-Moawad, assistant director of USC’s Office of Equity and Diversity in the Title IX department.
Students of all gender identities and ages received information on Title IX at the event and discussed issues related to sexual assault on college campuses.
“The general climate that surrounds sexual assault on college campuses and in the world right now pushed us to have a ‘healing night’ instead of a general meeting, because that’s what people need the most,” said Tara Ruff, president of TASA.
Ruff emphasized the importance of students coming together to support each other in a safe place and being surrounded by people who care about and believe in each other. Ruff said the event was also created for students to learn about the laws and regulations regarding sexual misconduct.
“I think it was important we held the event among the [Harvey] Weinstein scandal, and survivors don’t feel safe,” Ruff said. “[It’s] important as a safe space with people who may have experienced the same things you have.”
TASA invited Allee-Moawad to answer questions, especially those regarding Title IX. Allee-Moawad began the event by describing the event as conversational.
Allee-Moawad described in detail the process that the department goes through when cases of sexual assault are reported by students. Because sexual assault cases are often circumstantial, she said, reports can be 50 to 100 pages when a case closes, with both parties being involved in the process.
Allee-Moawad addressed some misconceptions about how the University addresses sexual assault.
For example, some attendees were surprised to learn that intoxication does not automatically classify sexual acts as a form of assault. Allee-Moawad drew a spectrum of intoxication on the chalkboard and described that survivors must be in a state of incapacitation to classify as a sexual assault.
Incapacitation describes when survivors are not able to legally consent and can lead to criminal charges against the accused assailant, if the case is reported.
Allee-Moawad said that survivors often report their experiences to remove feelings of guilt and to prevent it from happening to others.
While cases of sexual assault have reached mainstream media due to survivors speaking up, Allee-Moawad said that survivors from small, marginalized communities are often more hesitant to report sexual assault. She said this is because members of these communities know each other well and may be afraid of taking sides.
Allee-Moawad explained that all cases of sexual assault should be reported and that if a third party coerces the survivor to remain silent about their experience, they can also be subject to disciplinary action, according to USC policy.
She said USC’s Office of Equity and Diversity in the Title IX department cannot guarantee a certain outcome, but it can guarantee an equitable process.
“You may think you’re alone, but you’re not alone,” Ruff said. “There’s so many organizations and people to help you and we held this event to let people know they’re not alone.”