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Everfi Executive On Protecting College Students From Sexual Assault

News

In my nearly seven year career as the director of a sexual assault prevention and response program at a large public university, it was my privilege to listen to the voices of hundreds of survivors who chose to share their stories with me. While each survivor's’ experience is unique, a common thread through their stories is the hope that others will be spared the terrifying loss of power and control at the core of an experience of sexual assault.


It is critical to bring the voices of survivors into every conversation we have about sexual assault because those voices serve as both a compass and as a motivator for our actions to end sexual assault on college campuses. As the Senior Director of Prevention Education at EverFi, the nation’s leading education technology company, my sole mission is to challenge and empower the higher education community so that together we can create safer, healthier campus communities.

At EverFi, we work with over 1,300 campuses and reach millions of college students each year with our sexual assault prevention courses. Through the survey data from each of these participants, we have learned a lot about how college students think, believe, and act. We know, for example, that the overwhelming majority of students on college campuses engage in healthy and respectful sexual interactions with each other. Less positively, we have learned that while most students say they would intervene in a situation of harm involving another student, far fewer believe that other students would do the same. And, heartbreakingly, we know that students are still experiencing violence at alarming rates. Numerous surveys and studies find that between 15 and 25% of college women report experiencing sexual assault during their time on campus. The rate is more than two times higher for those students who identify as LGBT and/ or students of color. And male students are also experiencing violence. Clearly, we have much more work to do.

I posed this question: “What would help you to heal?”

Her answer: “I just don’t want this to happen to someone else.”

Our experience in prevention education has taught us some important lessons in effective practices for college campuses. Our data affirms what public health practitioners have long noted; there are no silver bullet programs, speakers, posters--or even, yes, on-line courses--that will, alone, end sexual assault. The most effective approaches on college campuses require a long-term commitment and many coordinated efforts to have impact. We need to promote positive behaviors in students and support healthy sexuality; we need to teach consent as a critical skill that all persons need to be successful, healthy, respectful global citizens; we need to empower students to care for each other and step in when they see someone engaging in harmful behavior.

The good news is that more and more colleges are adopting this approach and supporting the health, safety, and well-being of their students by investing in rigorous comprehensive prevention efforts. More college and university presidents are speaking out about this issue on their campuses, and more students are identifying that they have a role to play in ending violence on their campus.

But the news is not all rosy--while there is increasing support for prevention at higher education institutions, our data from a diverse subset of campuses across the country reflects that, on average, schools are spending just over $5 per student per year on sexual violence prevention. For smaller schools, the total spend per student goes up to nearly $8, while larger schools are spending an average of less than $1.35 per student on prevention. Think about that for a minute: the largest institutions of higher education spend less on sexual violence prevention per student than the cost of a latte. Schools simply must invest more to help ensure the safe and healthy future of their students.

As a nation, we have made tremendous progress in the last decade in combatting sexual assault on college campuses. But, in order to maintain this progress, there is a lot of work we must continue to do. From my role, I will continue to press each day to help develop and publish effective prevention tools through the Campus Prevention Network, EverFi’s nationwide initiative to bring together institutions that have demonstrated commitment to adopting the highest standards for prevention related to health and safety issues on their campuses.

I hope you will join me in this work. Here are some actions you can take:

Contact your congressional representatives and other elected officials and let them know that you care about ending sexual violence on college campuses, and that you wish them to continue the progress of the past decade.

Inquire with your alma mater about their sexual assault prevention efforts. Do they provide education to all students beyond the first year? How do they measure the effectiveness of their programs?

Engage in conversations with college students in your life about the importance of verbal, enthusiastic consent for all sexual activity. Not sure what to say? Try asking these questions to get started: how do you let your sexual partner know what you do and don’t want to do? How do you know if you have received consent for sexual activity? What is your plan if you’ve both been drinking and are considering having sex?

To harness the powerful words of former Vice President Joe Biden, it truly is on all of us to work together to continue the momentum of the past decade and keep working to end sexual assault on college campuses.

Culture

A Modern Day Witch Hunt: How Caster Semenya's Gender Became A Hot Topic In The Media

Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.


Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.

That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.

Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.

Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.

Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.

With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.

The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.

Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.

As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.

Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.