ASW Senate passed a resolution to create resources and support for students affected by sexual violence during a general session meeting Oct. 7 in the Health, Wellness and Activity Center (HWAC).
Through this resolution, Senate is pushing to establish a survivor fund that is independent from the Title IX office, providing a complete list of campus counseling resources and addressing any gaps that exist relating to sexual violence.
“There is a need for resources to support survivors who find themselves displaced after an incident of violence, are in need of medical care, or are in need of other support services,” said Aaron Smith, co-author of the resolution.
This resolution comes after several students have been referred to off-campus resources for sexual violence cases, while other universities provide these services, according to Resolution: WS 2019.F04 (Support for Student Survivors of Sexual Violence).
“Due to Westminster College’s limited resources and federal Title IX constraints, our current system cannot sufficiently support survivors of sexual violence,” Smith said.
In the past year, roughly six students on campus have needed support in relation to medical expenses, temporary housing assistance and food insecurity, according to the resolution.
Senate voted unanimously to pass the resolution, with students offering public comments of support.
With this approval, ASW President Maggie Regier and Vice President Kenzie Campbell will bring the resolution to President Bethami Dobkin, who Campbell said has already expressed her verbal support of the initiative.
They want the process to be as fast as possible because of recent proposed guidelines in the federal government, said Campbell, who is also a co-author of the resolution.
U.S. Secretary of Education Besty DeVos proposed in November 2018 new guidelines that restrict what Title IX offices can do for college students.
“These restrictions specifically include the inability of the Title IX office to investigate and support survivors when sexual violence occurs off campus,” according to the resolution. “Additionally, the Title IX office cannot assist survivors of sexual assault until an investigation has reached its completion, i.e. relocating respondents, and the enacting of a restraining order.”
Although Senate approved this resolution, change will not be immediate. When a campus-wide issue is proposed, Senate doesn’t have the power to enact the resolution into legislation.
Senate does, however, have the power to advocate for the resolution to Westminster College’s administration who can decide whether or not to implement it into an official policy.
Senators said this legislation is important because sexual violence causes more than just physical and emotional harm — it also causes financial stress after medical expenses and other costs.
“No amount of money can erase violence or trauma that a survivor has endured,” Aaron Smith said. “However, resources can help alleviate some of the stress felt after a violent crime.”
*Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated how many students were sent off-campus for sexual violence resources – there were six students.