Conference at UVA Spotlights Sexual Misconduct on College Campuses
Conference on sexual misconduct on college campuses held at UVA
A two-day national conference at the University of Virginia spotlighted sexual misconduct on college campuses. More than 200 legal experts, student leaders, and presidents from colleges across the country came together to discuss the difficult issue.
UVA President Teresa Sullivan has worked closely with her staff for the past six months to bring this topic to the table. The forum featured speakers and sessions, looking at the problem from several perspectives.
University of Pennsylvania English Professor Salamishah Tillet shares her story as a sexual assault survivor with hopes that the same situation doesn't happen to someone else.
“Part of my life's mission is actually to prevent sexual assault from occurring because it was such a traumatic and devastating experience for me,” Tillet said. “I was sexually assaulted in the mid-90s when I was a freshman in college as well as when I went on my study-abroad program my junior year.”
Tillet served as the keynote speaker during day two of UVA's dialogue on sexual misconduct among college students.
She said, “I felt like once I started sharing my story, there were so many people who start disclosing to you that they too have had this experience.”
Sullivan called for this conference to spark a national discussion on the so-called “silent epidemic.”
“We hope this is the beginning of a continuing dialogue,” Sullivan said. “We hope that we can reduce the stigma, so we can talk openly about the problem. We hope that we can learn to work together on some common solutions.”
Tillet said, “It’s the number one violent crime that students experience, so to be able to talk to university administrators is actually very rare. I’m normally used to talking to students themselves who are trying to organize and trying to reform policies and who are also experiencing this trauma.”
Legal, prevention, and education experts from across the country like Tillet chimed in to try and change the culture that fuels sexual violence.
“I hope that some of the things that I brought up will make a difference in the lives of the students that attend their schools,” Tillet said.
The event comes on the heels of a federal action to address the issue. President Barack Obama announced the formation of a task force to combat sexual assault on college campuses last month.
Sullivan said, “We’ve each been trying to deal with it on our own, but we’ve all got the same problem. This is an opportunity for us to come together and work on some common best practices, figure out what works and learn from each other.”
Sullivan says they have already scheduled a follow-up conference to assess progress and think of new ideas. That is set to take place at Dartmouth College in July.
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