A student-run campaign and website called This Is NOT OK Boston, launched last month by Boston University’s Center for Gender, Sexuality, and Activism, is seeking to organize and promote the sexual assault response and prevention work done by survivors, activists, and organizations in the Boston area working to “create safe(r) spaces in our community.”
This Is NOT OK organizer Nai Collymore-Henry (COM’15) also wants the website to be a place where survivors can share their stories. “It should be something that uplifts and empowers people,” she says.
Collymore-Henry says that colleges and universities have been making strides in ensuring that campuses are safe and that sexual assault charges are taken seriously in the wake of an announcement last spring by the US Department of Education (DoED) Office of Civil Rights that 55 colleges and universities—including BU—were being investigated for possible violations of Title IX regarding how they dealt with sexual violence and harassment complaints (that number has subsequently grown to 96 colleges and universities). Title IX of the US Educational Amendments Act of 1972 prohibits discrimination “on the basis of sex” and requires schools to investigate all reports of sexual assault.
“We want to highlight the voices of students who are creating a safer space and grow into a Boston-area forum where people can share personal stories about their experiences with sexual assault and violence,” Collymore-Henry says. “It’s not that these colleges aren’t doing a good job, but we want to hold them accountable for the people they are serving.”
Last year, the White House Council on Women and Girls and the Office of the Vice President released a report stating that one in five women had been sexually assaulted in college. A 2014 Washington Post analysis of federal crime data found that nationwide, there were more than 3,900 reports of forcible sex offenses on college campuses in 2012, up 50 percent over three years. In BU’s Annual Security and Fire Safety Report 2013/2014, released last year, the BU Police Department listed 10 reports of forcible sex offenses in 2013.
Collymore-Henry hopes the This Is Not OK BU website will strengthen ties among other colleges and universities in the Boston area, such as Harvard, Tufts, and Northeastern, which have started their own education and sexual assault prevention projects. A calendar on the website will post events that address sexual assault response and prevention being held at BU and at other institutions.
Underscoring BU’s commitment to ending sexual misconduct, President Robert A. Brown emailed a letter to all members of the BU community February 23 informing them about the University’s Sexual Misconduct and Title IX Policy for Students, Faculty, and Staff. “The adoption of this policy,” Brown wrote, “reflects our ongoing commitment to a campus environment that is free from all forms of sexual misconduct, including sexual assault and sexual harassment.” He noted that the University has also adopted two new sets of procedures for addressing the investigation and disciplinary processes for sexual misconduct complaints—one for complaints against students and another for complaints against faculty, staff, affiliates, and nonaffiliates. Those procedures, which are effective immediately, can be found here.
Last fall the University initiated a mandatory online sexual misconduct training program for faculty and staff, and this semester students will be surveyed about the prevalence and awareness of sexual misconduct and resources on campus. The goal, Brown said, is to help administrators better understand students’ experiences of sexual violence as victims, perpetrators, or witnesses.
“BU is committed to increasing awareness of sexual misconduct, eliminating its occurrence on campus, providing support for survivors, diligently investigating all reports of sexual misconduct, and dealing fairly and firmly with offenders,” Brown wrote in the letter. “Creating a safe campus environment and a culture of respect is the shared responsibility of all members of the BU community.”