New resource for sexual assault victims on campus

Victims of sexual assault on campus will have a new resource for recovery in the form of a support group through Lafayette’s Gender and Sexuality Programs and the Counseling Center.

Gene Kelly, Associate Dean of Intercultural Development and Director of Gender and Sexuality Programs, said that the creation of the group was prompted by his “observations [of] individuals who reported sexual assaults [who] were creating their own support networks to assist with their recovery.”

He “had been in conversation with the Counseling Center about creating this group since the beginning of the academic year” and said that Lafayette students should be provided the opportunity to go to a survivors’ support group with a trained psychiatrist. Dr. Melissa Garrison, a psychiatrist at the College’s Counseling Center, will work with the group. Kelly hopes that the group will be able “to provide a safe space for individuals who have been victims of sexual assault to share experiences and receive support from others.”

President Obama signed new measures that strengthened parts of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in March 2013, which required colleges to have initiatives for sexual-violence prevention as well as provide support and counseling for victims. Kelly said the measures had no role in Lafayette’s new program.

The creation of the support group follows other events sponsored by the Office of Gender and Sexuality Programs which aim to support women and survivors of assault. Last semester, the office was one of the main sponsors of the Take Back the Night March, Rally, and Vigil, which was an event designed to raise awareness of sexual violence and to unify the College against abuse. This event was a part of the Madame de Lafayette in October, a week of events that included lectures about what it means to be a woman in the 21st century. This month, the office is hosting events for Women’s History Month, such as movie screenings and Brown Bag discussions.

A group for survivors of assault had previously existed on campus, but not since July 2012 when Kelly first started to work for the College. Since the announcement of the group’s creation, Kelly said that “people are talking about it–it is being celebrated as a good step in addressing issues of climate and support for victims of sexual assault.”