LTE: A Response to “Rethinking Our View of Sexual Assault”

It has come to our attention that there are misunderstandings on campus regarding sexual violence, the Bystander Intervention program, and how to best support survivors of violence. Our aim is to clarify these points and to reiterate our support for the BC student body.

First, crimes involving sexual assault, exploitation, rape, and intimate partner violence hinge upon the definition of “consent” in the Department of Justice, the State of Massachusetts, Boston College, and Bystander Intervention. Consent cannot be defined as “verbal agreement to engage in sexual intercourse,” as not all consenting adults communicate verbally, and not all sexual encounters include intercourse. Further, consent can be withdrawn at any time, even if partners are long-term and/or married. Consent is not “procured” from another, but rather is freely given. According to the Boston College Code of Conduct, consent is rooted in the autonomy and dignity of all human persons, inclusive of age, freedom of choice, and sobriety.

On the note of sobriety, an individual cannot consent if intoxicated to the point of incapacitation. This can include a number of symptoms, from stumbling and slurring to throwing up and blacking out. It is important to note that substances do not cause sexual violence, but rather are used as a tool to facilitate violence in a majority of cases on college campuses.

Another common misconception is that regret of a sexual encounter constitutes the experience as “sexual violence.” While there are sexual encounters that individuals may view as a mistake, we want to distinguish these from sexual encounters that individuals emerge from feeling traumatized. This misconception is one commonly used to invalidate survivors of all genders. We as an organization strive to debunk this myth and to validate the experiences of those living with such trauma.

Bystander’s role as an organization is not to define any one individual’s moral views. Rather, we aim to inform the BC community on campus policies regarding sexual misconduct, to encourage and facilitate sexual assault prevention, and to support students in challenging forms of intersectional oppression. This has always been our goal. Our focus, therefore, is not solely on “the violent nature of sexual assault,” or on policing the consensual sexual activity of students, but rather on empowering students to support their friends and community in the battle against sexism, racism, homophobia, ableism, and all forms of oppression.

Finally, we want to affirm that survivors do not suffer a “permanent mark” or experience “pollution” for the rest of their lives as a result of violence. Healing is not a linear process, and it is possible to live with trauma, not in trauma. We at Bystander Intervention, the Women’s Center, and across campus are here to support and uplift survivors, because not one of us should be fully defined by the things that have happened to us.

For those interested in further discussing Bystander Intervention or violence on campus, please feel free to contact Teresa Sullivan at [email protected] or in Maloney 441.

In solidarity,

Kelly Vogel, MCAS ’18

Rachel Piccolino, MCAS ’18  

Greg Gaillardetz, MCAS ’19

Maddy Karsten, MCAS ’19

Brielle Scuteri, MCAS ’18

Claire Kramer LSOE ’18

Krickett Kazyak, MCAS ’18

Katie Laurila, MCAS ’18

Megan O’Neill, MCAS ’18  

Diana-Michelle Castro, CSOM ’18  

Michael Burke, MCAS ’18

Sydney Koehler, MCAS ’20

Samantha Ricci, MCAS ’20

Nicole Suozzo, MCAS ’18

Kristen Wnuck, MCAS ’18

Nicole Bowen, MCAS ’18  

Erin McCarthy, CSOM ’18  

Maithri Harve, MCAS ’19

Eilidh Currie, MCAS ’20

Andy Kearney, CSOM ’18  

Katie Babbin, MCAS ’18  

Juan Lones, CSOM ’20

Tara Hebert, MCAS ’18  

Nicola Roux, MCAS ’20  

Tt King, MCAS ’18

Teresa Sullivan, STM ’19

Julia Barrett, MCAS ’19

Thomasina Deering, MCAS ’18

Alexis Sabbaghian, MCAS ’20

Michaela Chipman, MCAS ’19

Maggie Stern, MCAS ’18  

Amanda Ilaria, MCAS ’20

Derek Bleakley, MCAS ’18  

Caroline Keil, LSOE ’20

Featured Image by Meg Dolan / Heights Editor