A new student organization which aims to combat sexual misconduct will soon make its voice heard on campus.
Founded by Helen Price ’18 and Anthony D’Ambrosio ’18, Unite Against Sexual Assault Yale hopes to foster a healthier sexual climate by using social media, workshops and lectures to raise awareness of sexual misconduct. The group also plans to host the Fearless Conference, an event which explores sexual violence and its prevention, on campus this spring.
Price, who co-organized the inaugural Fearless Conference in New York City this September, and also works as the vice president of the Reproductive Rights Action League at Yale, cited the recent publication of the results of the Association of American Universities campus climate survey as an impetus for the new venture. The survey found that 74 percent of undergraduate women at Yale had experienced some form of sexual harassment.
She added that USAY, like the Fearless Conference, will focus on encouraging members of the Yale community who have not previously been involved with sexual misconduct activism to take a stand on the issue.
“There is no traditional profile of a sexual violence campaigner,” Price said. “We saw an opportunity to found an organization at Yale that will continue the momentum generated by the [AAU campus climate] survey and that is focused on intersectionality and allyship.”
D’Ambrosio, at-large coordinator of Dwight Hall’s executive committee, said that the group plans to harness the power of peer-to-peer influence in affecting change by attracting participation from all sectors of the student body.
He said that USAY will particularly target students in leadership positions, such as those involved with Greek organizations, athletics and student government.
In the coming week, USAY will elect a board of five to 10 students, Price said. Later in the semester, the organization plans to mount an extensive social media campaign in which students will publicly commit to improving Yale’s sexual atmosphere, a measure the founders said will help generate positive conversation on campus.
“People are often quite disparaging of social media campaigning, but we think it’s a very important tool,” Price said. “We want to be present in people’s minds and encourage people to think about their own patterns of behavior.”
Over the course of this semester and the beginning of next semester, USAY will host a number of workshops and guest lectures at Yale, before hosting the Fearless Conference at Yale in the spring, D’Ambrosio said.
Price noted that the founders have received “promising” support from the Yale community since announcing their plans for USAY. She added that there is already a lot of positive work being done by other University organizations, such as the Communication and Consent Educators program, to make Yale’s sexual climate healthier.
D’Ambrosio also mentioned the possibility of future collaborations with other groups that hold similar goals.
“We would love to partner with as many organizations as possible down the line,” he said.
He added, however, that the organization’s current priority is to establish itself on campus and to build its membership. D’Ambrosio said that he would eventually like to see students other than the founders be the face of the organization.
“This is not my movement to push,” D’Ambrosio said.
Alex Borsa ’16, a Communication and Consent Educator for Silliman College, praised USAY’s goal of attracting a broad range of students from diverse backgrounds, adding that the fact that the group is solely student-run gives it a particularly unique position.
“I think any successful and effective approach [to tackling sexual misconduct] on a campus and community level is going to accommodate actors coming from a lot of different sectors,” he said. “This could be [a] really, really effective way of getting students involved who haven’t found personally compelling reasons to be involved in sexual misconduct prevention.”
Borsa explained that research indicates that personal empowerment and community engagement are the most powerful ways of combating sexual violence.
Still, he said it is important for the leaders of USAY to be aware of other efforts on campus working toward the same objectives, and that they should always be “careful, intentional and considerate” in their activism, even when the emotionally trying nature of the work gets overwhelming.
USAY will accept applications for positions on their managing board through this Friday, Oct. 16.
Correction: Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this article quoted Price as stating that she would eventually love to see students other than the founders of USAY be the face of the organization, because this is “not her movement to push.” In fact, this was said by Anthony D’Ambrosio in reference to his view that the aim of the organization is for men to act as allies, rather than for men to take over a movement led primarily by women.
Due to an editing error, Price was also quoted as saying “there is already a lot of positive work being done by other University organizations, such as the Community and Consent Educators program, to make Yale’s sexual climate healthier.” In fact, Price did not refer directly to the CCE program in making this statement. The article also incorrectly stated the gender of Alex Borsa ’16, and misstated the title of the Communication and Consent Educators program.
Clarification: A previous version of the article also stated that USAY will “accept positions” on its managing board through this Friday. In fact, USAY will be accepting applications for positions on its managing board through this time.