The night started as planned. The peer counselors from Consent gathered in Dwight Hall prepared to host an information and education session.
But that’s when they realized they were locked out of the room in which they had planned to host their discussion. After consideration, they moved the talk to Dwight Chapel. Ironically, they demonstrated exactly what they counsel victims of sexual harassment or assault to do — regain control after considering the options.
Throughout the night, Consent Coordinator Lisa Schneider ’03 and her fellow counselors — who wish to remain anonymous because of the strict confidentiality that characterizes the campus hotline — emphasized the many forms that sexual assault or harassment can take. Schneider said there are multiple forms of assault and that sexual abuse is “a bigger problem on campus than people recognize.” Other counselors agreed.
“Frequently the assaulters are students on campus, so no one considers it rape. Or they don’t want to,” one counselor said.
Statistics provided at the meeting supported that statement. Eighty-five percent of the rape incidents that occur on college campuses are acquaintance rapes and 56 percent of rapists are the victims’ dates.
As the evening continued, the counselors used role playing to demonstrate counseling strategies. They emphasized the need to help survivors regain control of situations that can strip them of their sense of power and leave them feeling guilty and angry.
“What actually happened isn’t as important as what she’s feeling,” one counselor stressed. “It is something that’s really difficult to talk about. You must be sensitive.”
The counselors expressed regret that many students are unaware of the resources available at Yale to help victims of assault or harassment. University Health Services offers free HIV, STD and pregnancy tests, as well as emergency contraceptives, to undergraduates. A grievance board helps survivors decide what legal action to take, if any. An executive committee punishes assaulters with everything from an unrecorded reprimand to expulsion.
Monu Lahiri ’04 spoke about the general unawareness of available options.
“I definitely have had friends in these types of situations and have not known exactly how to help them. It’s nice to know about the many resources available,” she said.
Kristina Pieper ’04, who plans to apply to become a counselor in the spring, said she was attracted to the group because of her desire to become more empowered to offer help in what often seems like a helpless situation.
“I feel like when people within your group of friends come to you with a problem, you often have the compassion and desire to help, but not necessarily the resources,” she said. “It’s interesting to learn how many resources there are to help when situations arise that people often like to keep hushed.”