Public Statement 3/3/16

March 3, 2016

Last night, the Women’s Center board released a statement aimed at channeling an existing campus conversation into productive discourse on sexual respect in our community. Unfortunately, parts of our original statement have been taken out of context by media outlets, which obstructs the positive conversation we hope to have. Thus, we are releasing an edited statement that centers on our core message.

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In light of recent events, The Yale Women’s Center would like to express its sentiments on the Yale that we want to be a part of. Our Yale is a place of respect and a home to all. It is a Yale in which students can feel comfortable and forge meaningful relationships on the basis of mutual understanding and consent. We at the Women’s Center believe in this vision, and therefore have high expectations for Yale students, faculty, and administrators to promote a culture of respect.

Bearing this in mind, we wish to comment on the current campus conversation in hopes that we can create an atmosphere of respect and understanding during this time of healing. We recognize that FERPA and Yale policy prohibit Yale from commenting on the exact nature of any specific incident. Though the silence is deeply frustrating to us and surely to many of you, Yale’s actions speak much louder than its words. While the campus can only speculate on what occurred, we can comfortably say that, should all of this be true, this is progress. It seems that a survivor felt that coming forward was a viable option and that they got the decisive outcome that they likely fought hard for.

At the same time, students’ words and behaviors establish campus norms. Though we can only speculate as to the intent behind the basketball team’s shirt protest, the team’s actions appeared to be a dismissal of the very real threat of sexual violence. We believe that their actions, and some community members’ responses, reflect toxic attitudes that persist on our campus. We condemn the insensitivity of the protest even as we withhold judgement on individual team members. We also recognize that there are power dynamics at play in all student groups, athletics included, that leave some members with less agency than others.

Sexual violence is a problem in every campus community. Each and every one of us has a hand in constructing the sexual climate on this campus. Every single individual bears responsibility for a campus climate in which violence is committed against its members. Those who stand by are complicit. This is a call for all of us to look within our own communities, speak up when we can about dangerous norms, and empower our friends to strengthen respectful ones.