When we think of gender violence on campus, we often refer to high-profile events in our collective Duke memory: the 2006 lacrosse scandal, the 2012 repeal of the statute of limitations on sexual misconduct reporting and ongoing debates about the boundaries of consent.
While these focal points rouse much-needed dialogue on important issues—namely, appropriate sexual conduct and victim support—they fail to adequately highlight the regularity and extent of gender violence perpetrated at Duke.
The reported numbers alone are shocking. According to the 2012 “Report on Gender and the Undergraduate Experience,” 101 Duke students sought services from the of Office of Gender Violence Prevention and Intervention in 2011, with that number expected to increase. Moreover, as we noted in yesterday’s editorial, 31 percent of women at Duke have reported unwanted sexual contact from another Duke student, which is higher than the national average.
Even more alarming, these numbers only represent a fraction of acts committed. As we mentioned in Monday’s editorial, individuals with the kinds of hierarchical views that dominate at Duke are the least likely to report sexual misconduct. Furthermore, misplaced stigma attached to victim services, conformity to traditional gender roles and fears of social alienation all discourage victims from seeking the psychological, medical and legal support they might need to overcome traumatic incidents.
Gender violence is a problem at Duke. While debates about the definition of acquaintance rape are productive, we must broaden our understanding of gender violence to grasp the full depth and breadth of an issue that affects people of all gender and sexual identities.
Since we imagine our University community to be characterized by trust and respect, it is difficult to accept that gender violence happens at Duke. The reality, however, is that even people whom we perceive to be good-hearted are capable of committing gender violence.
Of the 154 reports of gender violence received by the Women's Center between July 1 and June 30, 2013, 95 percent of the named perpetrators were Duke students, said Ada Gregory, director of the Woman's Center.
Stopping gender violence will require a sober assessment of our community’s norms and a willingness to dismantle norms that support, however indirectly, violent behavior.
Gender Violence Awareness Week, hosted by the Women’s Center in recognition of national Domestic Violence Awareness Month, is dedicated to increasing student awareness of gender violence. The Women’s Center is hosting events that encourage meaningful student dialogue on this issue, such as Prevention Action Challenge Training, leading conversations about consent and sharing bystander success stories on the blog Develle Dish. Such programs serve an important role in broadening our understanding of appropriate sexual conduct, debunking myths about consent and encouraging students to work to prevent sexual violence.
This proactive education is necessary, and we hope these conversations continue beyond this week. Discussions about gender violence are particularly important during the first week of school when new norms for college behavior are being set. The good news is that, with increased programming—including mandatory PACT training for all new Greek members—the current trend points towards greater awareness.
Ultimately, we need to hold each other accountable for our actions in order to create a safe community for our peers. To this end, we support equipping students with the tools needed to behave appropriately and hope to see more events like Gender Violence Awareness Week in the future.
This is the second editorial in a two-part series on gender violence.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Duke students perpetrated 95 percent of the sexual misconduct cases at the University during the 2012-2013 school year. It should have read, of the 154 reports of gender violence received by the Women's Center between July 1 and June 30, 2013, 95 percent of the named perpetrators were Duke students. The Chronicle regrets the error.