Class Year

2016

Document Type

Thesis

Honors Designation

Honors

Department

Women's Studies

Primary Advisor

Cristina Serna

Second Advisor (if necessary)

Meika Loe

Abstract

Sexual violence is a common problem on college campuses, and Colgate University is no exception. While discussions about sexual violence have become more common in the past decade due to the activism of student survivors, all too often survivors’ voices are left out or considered unimportant. Ignoring the experiences and testimonies of survivors leads to serious deficiencies in systems of survivor support on Colgate’s campus. This thesis uses ethnographic methods to illuminate what survivorship entails at Colgate, including how survivors process trauma in community and how sexual violence affects their identity as students. It also considers the ways in which identity factors into survivorship, in what manner community members have responded to disclosures of sexual violence, and where survivors find support or not on their journey of acceptance and healing on this campus. It finds that student survivors often deal with trauma-related stress disorders that interfere with their academic functions, and need help dealing with that disadvantage. Survivors find support mainly among friends, other survivors, and the counseling center. Survivors need to be able to speak to and be supported by other people about their experiences in order to process and heal, so creating a culture in which this is common is paramount to supporting survivors. Institutional programs such as health services, the reporting process, and the Equity Grievance Panel need to be improved. Finally, sexual violence does not happen in a vacuum, and survivors’ various identities impact the types of support they need. Recommendations are made for how Colgate can improve its survivor support systems.

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