LIZ ANASTASIADIS, Editor-in-Chief — Denison prides itself on making sexual respect a driving value and aims to rid the campus of sexual assault. One of their ongoing initiatives is to hold annual Sexual Respect Dialogues, open for the campus community to attend.
The Denison Coalition for Sexual Respect (DCSR) collaborated with the Office of Title IX to invite students for the campus-wide discussion on sexual respect. The Sexual Respect Dialogues were held on November 10 and 12 from 6 -8 p.m. over Zoom, with about 100 students, staff and faculty in attendance.
The purpose of the dialogues are to create a safe space for students to discuss and educate themselves on sexual respect in the Denison community and beyond.
The events started with an opening statement from Dr. Veerendra Lele, Associate Professor of anthropology/sociology and the Deputy Title IX Coordinator. Afterward, students were broken up into breakout rooms facilitated by trained peers and one faculty member. Each group had a 45 minute time frame to discuss six different questions about sexual respect. The theme of the discussion was “Why is sexual misconduct so prevalent on college campuses?” After the discussion, Dr. Keun-Joo Christine Pae, associate professor and chair of the religion department spoke on the subject. This was then followed by an overall discussion with all groups on sexual respect and closing remarks from President Adam Weinberg and Dr. Alex Miller, Vice President of Student Development.
Stephanie Jackson, Denison’s Title IX Coordinator, was pleased with how the dialogues went: “Community dialogues are a critical democratic tool for community change and aligns with Denison’s mission ‘to inspire and educate our students to become autonomous thinkers, discerning moral agents and active citizens of a democratic society.’ The dialogue process moves from inclusive community organizing that draws people from all parts of the community to work on an issue of shared concern into action, then connecting the ideas from the dialogue outcomes that range from changes in an individual’s attitudes, behaviors, beliefs, to new projects and collaborations and to institutional and policy change.”
Student members of DCSR’s steering committee helped to coordinate the event, including Dominika Chruszcz ‘22, Nalani Wean ’21, Thao-Trang Nguyen ’22, Cole Rosenbloom ’22 and Destini Wiseman ’22, all under the guidance of Jackson.
Dominika Chruszcz ‘22, a psychology and religion double major from Chicago, IL and the Vice President of Education & Programming for DCSR was ecstatic about the turnout.
“We’ve found that a lot of students had no education about sexual respect… Simple consent education is not working enough and it tends to be over-simplified,” said Chruszcz.
According to Denison’s data, sexual misconduct is grossly underreported. Only 7% of students experiencing misconduct officially report it to a campus authority. When asked why they don’t report it, the primary reason is not thinking it was serious enough to report or not recognizing it as sexual misconduct.
For female victims/survivors, 28% indicated that sexual misconduct occurred within their first eight to ten weeks at Denison. Of those, 59% indicate that it occurred at any point during their first year at Denison. Of women experiencing misconduct during their first year, 51% indicated that the perpetrator was the same class year, 36% indicated it was an older student, and 14% did not know the relative class year.
The majority of the misconduct occurs in a residence hall room, apartment or suite, typically perpetrated by another student — sometimes an acquaintance or friend and sometimes a student unknown to the student. Of the students experiencing misconduct, 27% of women and 11% of men experienced another incident during their time at Denison.
In past years, Denison held successful “Sexual Respect Dinners (SRD)” that opened up the discussion of sexual respect on campus, with over 200 attendees. They planned to have another round of dinners in Spring 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic postponed the events.
“Although COVID has had its many shares of different flavors of awful, we wanted to use this situation to the best of our advantage to discuss the importance of sexual respect on our campus. … I’m looking forward to having these dinners/dialogues each semester so we can continue to critically think and challenge Denison to become a more sexually respectful campus. – Destini Wiseman a Biochem and Religion double major on the pre-law track from South Point, OH
The drive for students to be involved in the discussion is year round: Chruszcz discussed a collaboration with SHARE to consistently talk about how they can get more people involved in education around sexual respect.
“When I joined the steering committee last semester for the Sexual Respect Dinners (SRD), my intentions were to support DCSR in addition to serving as a link to the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) and POC community on campus,” says Thao-Trang Nguyen ’22, a biology major from Chicago, IL. “Although the platform for these dialogues has changed, the purpose of SRD and student passion for sexual cultural change at Denison have not. In consideration of the challenging timing of the virtual event, the overall turnout and success were as expected. I was happy to see many faculty, administrators and staff on the call, however, the lack of student representation was disappointing; although the conversations I had in my personal breakout group was productive, I couldn’t help but feel that there were perspectives we were missing out on.”
Chruszcz also hopes to involve Denison athletes and sexual respect chairs from Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) in future discussions.
DCSR’s next meeting will talk about the sexual respect dialogues and different themes surrounding sexual respect. DCSR holds several general body meetings throughout the semester: Follow their Instagram (@dcsr_denison) to stay updated, or email [email protected] for more information.