Victoria Bresnahan – General Assignment Reporter
Jessica Holman, senior student activist, said she believes one goal of the #MeToo movement is to elevate all forms of sexual misconduct that can be experienced by a person.
“Sexual violence isn’t something that only effects people of a certain race, or ethnicity, or sexual orientation or age,” said Holman, a panelist. “It is something that can affect you at any point in your life and any socio-economic class.”
Southern’s Peer Educators Advocating for Campus Empowerment (PEACE) held a discussion on Tuesday about the #MeToo movement and Southern student’s title IX rights. Students were welcome to ask their own questions concerning either of the topics.
Kristina Filomena, senior student activist, said the #MeToo movement spread virally beginning this past October. The movement has been used to demonstrate the growing rate of harassment and sexual assault, she said.
“Originally it was started by Tarana Burke and she started #MeToo to kind of bring together women of color who have gone through sexual assault and let them know that they are not alone, said Filomena, said during the discussion. “[To] make them more confident and comfortable to share their stories with people.”
At the discussion, Southern Connecticut State University president Joseph Bertolino said the creation of the #MeToo movement has brought to light issues concerning sexual misconduct in all forms.
“I want to remind folks that sexual assault, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, stalking, violence in all of their forms are just unacceptable,” said Bertolino.
Chris Piscitelli, director of student conduct, said a major conversation in higher education currently is what is an appropriate sanction when a student performs an act of misconduct. Some groups believe exploitation is the only option, but Piscitelli said best practice shows every case falls within a realm.
“Your worst-case scenarios should absolutely result in the highest sanction that you can give,” said Piscitelli. “Then there is a range that kind of comes down [to] depending on what the misconduct was, and then where it kind of slides in.”
He said it could be a suspension, or protective methods. These measures prevent students from taking classes together or living in the same hall, he said.
Piscitelli said when students are temporarily suspended from the school after violating a policy, they must attend an outside facility and programs to be readmitted.
“They will go through a program and sometimes that includes work in partner agencies,” said Piscitelli. “Sometimes that includes participation in events.”
Holman said for there to be a systemic change in how students understand healthy sexual behaviors, they should be educated on what consent is by an earlier age.
“Educating students on what consent is, educating students about respecting boundaries and things like that,” said Holman, “I think should start from a very early age. Because sexual misconduct doesn’t just suddenly start when you enter a university setting.”
Due to a possible lack of education, Filomena said some students do not realize their actions could be considered sexual misconduct.
“I think from a peer educators role [I understand] that I am going to support and believe the victim,” said Filomena, “but I am also going to take into context the culture we live in and that this person might not be a bad person, they might just have a lack of education.”
Holman said university advocates Cathy Christie and Melissa Kissi are available by phone 24/7 for students to talk to.
“They can support survivors whether it was 5 minutes ago, 5 hours ago, 5 days ago, 5 months ago, or 5 years ago,” said Hoffman. “There is no time limit on it. They are really just there to make sure students know their rights and feel safe on campus.”
Photo Credit: Victoria Bresnahan