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Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center Statement Regarding Sexual Violence at U.Va.

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Rape is a vile criminal act, to which no individual should be subjected.

The Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center stands with all survivors of sexual assault and gender-based violence. This support has been a core part of our work from the founding of the center 25 years ago. Since 1989 our services have expanded – thanks to both private philanthropy and funding from the University – beyond counseling: holding Survivor Support Network trainings for faculty and staff, engaging students in educating their peers about gender-based violence and advocating for social change, and partnering with vital student organizations promoting change through the University tradition of student-led initiatives.

The Women’s Center has appreciated steps that the University administration has taken to make the Grounds safer and has collaborated with administration on efforts such as the upcoming training for faculty, staff and students, Not On Our Grounds: Green Dot. Impassioned student response has filled the January 7-8, 2015 training for students. Faculty and staff are sure to follow suit in registering for the training offered for them January 6-9.

The Trauma Counselor at the Women’s Center, who sees only students who are experiencing trauma because of violence, is at capacity in her caseload. A second counseling position has been expanded to full time for spring semester thanks to alumni gifts and the Vice President for Student Affairs.

Yet existing and planned efforts are clearly not enough.

One step that is overdue is a frank, open community dialogue on the role of Greek organizations on Grounds, one that engages many voices and addresses the both the benefits and deficits of fraternity membership. Individual fraternity chapters vary widely in their attitudes towards women, but the larger issue of how fraternal culture is often a self-perpetuating breeding ground for violence against women must be confronted. Of course that breeding ground is much larger than Rugby Road.

The recent Rolling Stone article exposed gut-wrenching truths about sexual assault at the University, about the challenges all campuses face when dealing with this violence, and finally, about an entrenched rape culture that perpetuates the dehumanization of women here and elsewhere. Can we begin to transform a rape-supportive culture into a culture of safety and respect? Will we care for one another, support one another, resist violence, and treat one another with compassion and honor?

Students, faculty, staff, and alumni are voicing their deep commitment to a seismic shift in the culture. The Women’s Center firmly believes that the University—which means all of us— can create this change. It will take facing hard truths about what does not work. It will take a continuation of the urgency we feel today. It will take a strong commitment to the solidarity between students, faculty, staff, and alumni that we have seen over these hard days. It will take listening to survivors, and trusting and taking seriously the experiences of women.

Most of all, it will take imagination. “We have to dream while awake.” Elena told me that when I visited her colorful women’s collective situated next to a particularly violent part of El Salvador. We have to be awake to a harsh reality that must be changed. And at the same time that we hold that reality before us like a mirror, we have to envision something new. Imagine. Act. Lead. That is the heart of the mission of the Women’s Center, and of all that is most vital in the University of Virginia that we love.

Sharon Davie, Director
Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center

 

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