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One of These Things Is NOT Like the Others…

September 6, 2012

Let’s play Sesame Street; here’s one of my favorites. Now let’s try it with the monster but no cookies. Which of these things is NOT like the others? Freshman move in. New roommates. First day of class. Football games. First large group meeting. Sexual assault. That wasn’t hard was it? As I begin my second year geezering this blog, the same nasty subject pushes its nasty way to the front of the blog line again just like last year. Why? Because it’s already happening now at Harvard, York University (Canada), and the University of Montana. Some welcomes back to campus reek of evil. And many more will follow in their wake as this year progresses.

Sarah Lawrence University pulls together some scary stats. One out of four women currently enrolled in higher education will experience a sexual assault before they graduate. Most will be assaulted by someone they know and alcohol is often involved. An easy, yet accurate and deserved (Every year brings stories of fraternities being banned for alcohol/assault/hazing infringements), indictment of the Greek/party scene falls short of what could be done. Some point to the hyper-sexualizing of our culture. Witnessing the pseudo-intellectual pandering going on during Sex Weeks most notably at Yale but also other Ivies, who could discount the argument? Recent titles such as Nathan Harden’s “Sex and God at Yale” contend that rampant sexuality there not only creates a culture of rape (a not unreasonable claim for a number of campuses), but also fundamentally eats away the philosophical underpinnings of Yale stripping it of the ability to provide genuine education worthy of its once elite status. While Harden overstates the case for the disintegration of thought and while God makes the title but gets short shrift in the book (He is very much alive and well at Yale and other Ivies, thank you very much), the rape culture argument stands up embarrassingly well.  Security people know that the perpetrator always makes the first move. More security officers on patrol, expanded emergency phone and surveillance cameras and faster notification of local police and campus social network media develops in response to an attack; the perps show us where the chinks in our armor are. And strangely, the victim often gets blamed or the system – everyone but the attacker.

So what’s a Christian to do? Certainly Jesus’ story of the good Samaritan jars us from any complacency and should spurs us to action. Our salvation should always have some smears of other people’s pain on it. Christian men on campus may be mostly single and this means that as we move toward the time when we might be married, we apprentice the spirit of Ephesians 5:25-27 where Christ laid Himself down for the cleansing and purification of His bride , the church. It means Christian men on campus respect all women (Jesus always treated them well.) and certainly provide a secure presence for the women in Christ where necessary. But there’s more.

We should have information; most sexual assaults happen when many offices are closed. Most victims need a human face before they get to an ER, clinic or campus medical center and many of them don’t get it. A little homework is in order. Check out the Advocates Program at St. Lawrence University or the Rape and Incest National Network. Check out the medical center on your campus. While the info might be online on the university website like here or here (It does happen on Christian campuses too.) , it’s better that a bunch of Christians go looking for face time with someone saying,”We’re the leaders of the SpongeBob Christian Fellowship (If that really is your name, please fast and pray about changing it.) and we want to know what your sexual assault policies are so we can better help students in an emergency. In a social media age, active face time is both an endangered species and a powerful voice. Actually taking the time to come shows we’re serious about the issue and respect for whoever talks with us. If they can’t see us now, we should make an appointment for later.

Does our school have a well-developed policy in place?  A surprising number do not. If not, be a rallying point for other Christian groups, sororities and others to approach the administration about getting something up to speed in place. The Clery Center for Security on Campus will help. As I suggested before, volunteer to be part of the campus escort service especially on Friday and Saturday nights when they are the most needed. Many of the other escorts may well want to do some partying of their own and be unavailable. No campus escort service? What would it say if four or five Christian groups came to a dean of students saying, “We’d like to do something tangible to insure campus safety for women students here. Will you work with us to help us get an escort service started and launched. We’ll provide the bodies but will you help with structure? Christians looking to impact things for the public good will continue to prove to be our most open door into the lives of others who need Christ.

Here’s a real cutting edge thing that a student Christian group can do now. In the Harvard Crimson article cited above, Amanda Morejon, student director of Response (peer counselling at Harvard) says there is often a stigma attached to escort service and that, where present, they are seriously underused. We’re out on our own. The campus is safe. I know where I am and I’m no baby. Maybe deep down I’m nervous, even scared, about the walk I face getting from the library back to the dorm but I don’t want anyone to think I’m not cool or a wuss. What about a Christian launched campaign called “It’s Cool to Have Company!” Notice how well this would fit on signs? Must be a God thing. Hit the campus newspaper with it. Go to the highest ranking women in the school administration – the president, dean of women, head of the women’s studies department, director of the health center, several faculty. Say that since they are the most visible, respected and accomplished women on campus, we’d like them to go public and tell all women on campus that “It’s Cool to Have Company.” Also involve whatever rape crisis group is on campus.  Tell the women that a group of escorts (three or four men and women from our group) will meet them at their office and will escort them safely on a special tour around campus. Embedded in each group will be someone from the rape crisis center; they (Christian or not; this is a safety thing and this is their turf.) serve as tour guides. Cover the whole campus. See the places that look benign in daylight but there have been three assaults there in the last year. Go down Fraternity Row while the advocate shares stats and stories. See how isolated this hallway can be as the building closes at 11 PM?

Have all the tours end and convene at a common place where the Christian groups have provided free food and the rape crisis group their literature. Theirs may well involve free condom distribution so we may want to think about how we want to handle that. They might negotiate that for having the exposure and a broader united front on campus. After all, this isn’t a safe sex thing; it’s a sexual violence thing. Use their stuff if at all possible. This part can also be a campus wide invited meeting where students not only get the info but maybe a speaker, some testimonies (Christian or non-Christian) of people who may be willing to share their stories. This is a nasty silent thing so people who will share their hurt in this area will have a huge impact.I’ll bet there are some well done Christian videos showing how Jesus Christ meets the deep hurts of the assaulted. Don’t do this in some cheesy way that looks like the whole things is just a shallow set up for a pitch. We get accused of this. Let’s class this up and show our campus that Jesus loves all women.

Here’s the final kicker. Whether the women administrators, deans, etc. stay for the refreshments or not, the three or four students who do the escorting invite the female administrator and member of the rape crisis center staff who walked with them to lunch in the near future – not some $50 a plate place but not Taco Bell either. Could be right in the student union or an off campus cool hole in the wall they don’t know about.  Maybe they’ll suggest somewhere we don’t know about. It’s about face time and that witnessing by our actions so many of us talk about but don’t do.

Cool stuff you should check out-

The newest undergrad student theological journal from University of Pennsylvania, “The Lamp Post”, is now online. A bunch of these on campus all over the country have joined loosely together in something called “The Augustine Collective”. Maybe something that could happen on our campus?

The great people from The Veritas Forum have put together something called “Finding God at Harvard. If we’ve read the book (And it’s God’s will that we do.), it’s loaded with testimonies, interviews,essays and thought provoking stuff that will not only challenge and deepen our faith, there’s some great mulch for research papers here in almost any field of study.

If you think this might encourage a student or someone who works with them, then share, subscribe, follow, twitter and all that social network stuff.

Please return your seat to the upright position and give your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant at the rear as you leave. See you next post at geezeronthequad.com

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