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Why Oxford Needs a Respect Advocate Yesterday

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Sexual assault happens at Oxford.

Despite PAL skits, OxSAPA trainings and our best intentions, we can’t stop it on our own.

We have resources at Oxford that help us with the aftermath of sexual assault- counselors and a chaplain to talk confidentially to survivors about trauma, and a Title IX coordinator to help survivors report their perpetrator and request accommodations. There’s something missing here.

Right now, students are the only entity at Oxford asking what can be done about sexual assault proactively; not just in retrospect. Until we have eyes other than students on issues like awareness and education, we’re always going to be unprepared.

We need staff that helps us change our culture for the better, not only when things have already gone wrong. That is why we need a Respect Advocate at Oxford.

Respect Advocates are Emory University staff employed to support survivors and fight against campus violence. They advise Atlanta-campus SAPA (Sexual Assault Peer Advocates) as well as provide confidential support for students in crisis. They are experts and advocates by occupation.

Although their office on the Atlanta campus is open to Oxford students and they have supported survivors from Oxford in the past, our access to Respect is far from equal to that of our Atlanta undergraduate counterparts.

I’m talking about the obvious logistical boundaries between us and Respect: the shuttle ride, the lack of knowledge, and the onus put on survivors to seek out a resource they deserve to have right in front of them.

The presence of the Respect Program at Oxford would make our campus safer. They would add to the list of confidential reporters (Emory staff that don’t have to report when survivors come to them) we would have access to. They would function as advisors for OxSAPA and other student groups. Most importantly, they would be the voice of survivors to administration and staff.

So what’s keeping Respect from sending an advocate to Oxford on a regular basis? Amazing question.

I’ve asked Respect, I’ve asked Oxford administrators, and the answers I’ve gotten varied but they all point to the same attitude –a lack of urgency. It’s in the works, and it’ll happen someday, but without active student support there seems to be no deadline in place.  

Because half of the student body changes every year, Oxford College has little institutional memory. It seems we only discover what we don’t like about Oxford right before we graduate from it, and there’s never enough noise from the student body to make things change.

Anyone, your best friend, crush, nemesis or lab partner may be or become affected by sexual violence. This is why we all need to take this issue personally. It’s why we need to hold our school accountable when it’s not doing everything it can –because survivors are not strangers to us, and resources for them make our entire community safer.

Respect alone is not a cure for our struggle against sexual violence, but they have expertise and a position unlike any that currently exist at Oxford.

This issue manifests so many of the complaints you’ve heard about our school. That it feels like Emory’s neglected stepchild and Atlanta’s resources are not our own. That students graduate before we see any real change. That Oxford expects too much of us and doesn’t take our concerns seriously.

Here. Here is something to fight for to prove those thoughts wrong.

Whether it’s signing OxSAPA’s petition (sign here) or starting this conversation with friends, this deserves to happen as soon as possible. It should have happened already.

Because it’s two in the morning (or the afternoon) and I’m in my room (or on the quad) talking to a total stranger (or good friend) in the aftermath of a sexual assault –theirs. No matter how many other OxSAPA members I train to support survivors, this conversation never gets easier. I never feel prepared, and I could use some guidance. We all could.

Photo courtesy of campusencounters.com

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5 Comments

5 Responses to “Why Oxford Needs a Respect Advocate Yesterday”

  1. Riana Peskopos on September 29th, 2017 1:44 pm

    This is needed for our student body

    [Reply]

  2. Annabess ehrhardt on September 29th, 2017 11:40 pm

    As an Oxford continuee that has worked extensively with SAPA on both oxfords campus and Atlanta as well as the Respect Program, i agree with everything that was said in this. Oxford needs an advocate of its own.

    [Reply]

  3. Destiny Matthews on October 1st, 2017 2:10 pm

    I support this movement 100%.

    [Reply]

  4. Meredith Johnson on October 2nd, 2017 12:50 am

    As an RA on campus, I want to be able to help my residents in any way that I can. With that being said, although we have a Title XI coordinator on campus, the problem doesn’t go away with the “options” presented to the victim. The victim needs help, support, and a direct avenue for help. If Oxford students matter, then why don’t they have the equal resources as those on the Atlanta campus, especially with such a sensitive topic that has CLEAR demonstrated need and advocacy.

    [Reply]

  5. Jipeng Yue on October 2nd, 2017 3:10 pm

    👍

    [Reply]

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The student news site of Oxford College of Emory University
Why Oxford Needs a Respect Advocate Yesterday