Standing with Sexual Assault Survivors
In the wake of a sexual assault, everyone deserves the ability to access the resources and care they need for their health and well-being. It’s up to us, as a student body, to create a campus environment that supports each and every survivor of sexual assault.
That means we need to dismantle the stigma around sexual assault that prevents our friends, roommates and classmates from coming forward about their experiences. Let’s be clear: sexually assaulting someone is what’s shameful, not being a survivor.
No one should be blamed, belittled or brushed aside for their own assault.
Instead, we should stand with survivors and advocate for campus sexual assault response policies that regard their experiences and their decisions about whether or not to report their assault with dignity and respect. We should challenge the people in our lives when we hear them make statements that blame or stigmatize people who have experienced sexual assault. We should fight back against attacks on health care that would limit sexual assault survivors’ access to a full range of sexual and reproductive health services and information, in a place that is free of shame or doubt.
Survivors of sexual assault deserve caring and expert sexual and reproductive health care, including STI testing and treatment, emergency contraception, pregnancy tests and options counseling. Whether it be on campus or at a local healthcare provider like Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette, they deserve to receive that care in a compassionate and nonjudgmental environment.
As a FRESH Ambassador, I am committed to helping provide resources to the community on Portland Community College’s Southeast Campus. Even though it’s the largest college in Oregon, PCC does not have a student health center, leaving many students unaware of where to access health care. FRESH (Furthering Reproductive Empowerment & Sexual Health) is a three-session series on a variety of topics to help students take control of their sexual health. So far, we’ve participated in World AIDS Day, National Condom Week and International Women’s Day.
Planned Parenthood works to help prevent sexual violence through quality sex education that teaches about consent and healthy relationships. Their health centers are a trusted resource for many people, including survivors of sexual assault.
It’s outrageous that right-wing politicians are working to block survivors from accessing Planned Parenthood as a compassionate and safe option for care. In the wake of a sexual assault, no one’s ability to access resources and services should be threatened. Survivors often already face tremendous stigma in coming forward – putting any further obstacles between survivors and the care and resources they need is simply unacceptable.
The PCC community must speak with one voice when it comes to sexual assault: We won’t tolerate it and we won’t abandon survivors. Let’s make our campus one that stands with survivors and stands up for their autonomy, dignity and care.
Taimane McClain is a Portland Community College student and a FRESH Ambassador for Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette, the largest nonprofit provider of sexual and reproductive healthcare and youth education programs in Oregon and Southwest Washington. For more information about FRESH, email firstname.lastname@example.org.