By Tom Ballard
Why does the College need Title IX?
“Every future and current student deserves a comfortable college experience.”
“Safety and inclusivity are necessary components for a thriving community.”
“Being able to learn in a safe environment is a human right.”
Those are just a few of the responses that the College’s Office of Title IX received for its “TCNJ Needs Title IX” campaign that intends to raise awareness about sexual assault and gender discrimination on campus.
The campaign, which coincides with Domestic Violence Awareness Month, mainly takes place on the Office’s Instagram account, @tcnj_titleix, and a Tumblr page under the campaign’s name. It features photos of students and other members of the campus community, including administrators and Campus Police, holding signs explaining why Title IX protections are important to the College community.
According to Tyler Switsky, a Programing, Research and Development intern for the Office of Title IX and a senior history major, the campaign was brought to the College in response to a national campaign called “Know Your IX” and coincides with Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October.
“(Know Your IX) have their own ongoing campaign called ‘My (Blank) Needs Title IX Because,’ and I thought it sent a very powerful message,” Switsky said. “They encouraged schools to bring this to their own campuses, and after tweaking it a little bit with (the College’s Title IX Coordinator) Jordan Draper, we were able to come up with the full scope of the campaign that was tailored to TCNJ.”
According to the national campaign’s website, the initiative aims to educate college and high school students across the U.S. about their legal rights to safe education free from sexual and gender-based violence.
“Unfortunately, the statistics of sexual violence on college campuses are exceptionally high,” Draper said. “Tyler and I thought this (campaign) would be a great way to market the Title IX office, as well as inform students what Title IX is and how it can help them or a friend in need.”
The response for the campaign has been strong so far, according to Switsky and Draper. More than 70 individuals have participated in in the photo campaign so far, and the initiative has garnered support from offices like the Division of Student Affairs, Anti-Violence Initiatives (AVI) and the Office of the President.
Draper said they plan to hang all of the signs from the campaign on a wall in the Brower Student Center and make some photo collages.
According to the Center for Disease Control’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey from 2010, one in every five women and one in every 59 men in the U.S. has been raped at some point in their life. The report also found that one in every four women and one in every seven men has been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner.
Statistics fare worst for college students. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Campus Climate Survey, 17.6 percent of female college students and 5.3 percent of male college students reported being sexually assaulted during the 2014-15 school year.
The statistics of sexual assault on college campuses are too high, according to alumnus Zach Gall (’13), project manager for the Office on Violence Against Women, AVI Prevention Education specialist and graduate student at the College. He noted that men are also victimized by sexual assault.
“It is no means just a women’s issue,” Gall said. “There are men being harmed, as well… It really is an across-the-board concern. While by no means are men the only perpetrators — there are females who commit acts of power-based violence — we know that a large number of the perpetrators are male, and while it’s a small portion of the population as a whole, it’s a small number of people committing a lot of violence.”
Gall said that it is important for men to become part of the conversation about on-campus sexual assault.
“It can be hard (for men to get into anti-violence), but that’s half of the population that could be helping in this fight against violence that weren’t being engaged, and I would rather have more allies than less,” Gall said.
Going forward, Switsky said that it is important that the entire College community become engaged in fighting sexual assault and gender-based violence.
“The reason why we are at TCNJ is because we are here to further our education and create a foundation on which we can launch our career and personal endeavors,” Switsky said. “Nobody has the right to take your access to education away from you, and in many ways, sexual assault and other forms of power-based personal violence do just that… We are fortunate to be at the College because everyone at this school truly cares about eradicating this type of behavior, including staff and faculty.”
Gall said that while there are some measures that the College can take to crackdown on sexual and gender-based violence, it’s up to the student body to create an environment that is comfortable and willing to talk about the issues.
“I think sometimes that students sort of feel pressured to believe that everything is fine or make everybody else believe that everything is fine, and sometimes, things aren’t,” Gall said. “(So) making it more acceptable and normal to say something, like, ‘Oh, I’m struggling today,’ or, ‘Oh, this happened to me today and I didn’t like it,’ that’s something that the College can’t mandate, but it is something that we can work toward as a whole.”
Draper said that any students who experience this sort of violence can find support on campus.
“Everyone deserves to experience an education free from violence and feel safe in their community, and this can be something we achieve together, as a TCNJ community,” Draper said.
She stressed that students should feel comfortable reporting any instance of sexual or gender based violence to the College.
“Underreporting is a huge issue nationally and on our campus,” Draper said. “ In working with (the Office of Title IX), students can choose how involved they want to be, but I do want every person who has experienced violence to know they have rights, and there are free and confidential resources they can utilize.”
Gall said any immediate problems should always be reported to Campus Police, but added that AVI can offer long-term emotional support for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence by helping them get back on track with school, connecting them with any off-campus services not provided at the College or even accompany them to hospitals or police stations.
“(This is) not something that students have to go through alone,” Gall said.