**Content Warning: This article contains discussion of sexual assault.**
May I be one of the many, many excited upperclassmen students to say: Welcome to Kenyon. Whatever you are feeling—excited, nervous, homesick, etc.—I think you will be pleasantly surprised that upperclassmen, faculty, and administration here genuinely believe in your promise and are very happy you are here.
I thought it best to address something that you will likely not find elsewhere during your orientation/first weeks: honest advice about sexual assault at Kenyon. You will meet great resources whom I encourage you to contact should you have any questions or trouble; however, I want to offer you personal experience rather than the usual broad theoretical advice. My experiences last year gave me—I believe—knowledge, understanding, and experience which I draw upon when addressing this subject. However, every experience is different, and this may not be yours or others’ on campus. But, on the off-chance it is, I’d like to share with you some advice on how to keep yourself, and your friends, safe.
1. If you decide to partake in the party scene on campus, be a responsible consumer of alcohol; consider doing some research. Crossing drugs with alcohol, skipping a meal, missing some crucial Z’s the night before, being under the weather, or on medication can all lower your tolerance to alcohol.
More than knowing and understanding your own alcohol tolerance, I would suggest getting to know your friends’ tolerances too. It makes for a safer night of drinking if the group is looking out for each other. Remember, “drunk” looks different on every person. Don’t be quick to dismiss someone’s condition because they aren’t vomiting.
2. Understanding your tolerance, recognizing when you are drunk, and recognizing when your friends are drunk, are all important when considering the prevalent hook-up culture at Kenyon. I would guess only about half of the student body partakes in it, if that, so the hook-up culture may not be as omnipotent as you have potentially been lead to believe. Nevertheless, it exists, and it can be fun if you feel inclined to partake.
But here’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned: do not “go home” with someone when you are drunk. There are a million logical reasons to not do so, right? You may not remember it well, or you may be a bit sloppy. Most importantly, you really cannot ever tell who you are jumping into bed with. The very well-trained SMA’s and Beer & Sex Advisors cautioned our incoming class about this last year. However, I shrugged and thought, “of course I won’t go home with some rando,” thinking that’s what it took to keep me safe.
But the truth is, sexual assault usually isn’t committed by the stereotypical “random person.” Based on sexual assaults I know have occurred on this campus, the attacker is your formal date, or the guy you’ve been “talking to,” or someone across the hall. This campus is too small for “randos.” It’s most likely that your attacker will be someone you know. You are all responsible adults capable of making your own decisions, but I personally really wish I would have decided sooner in the year to only hook-up or have sex with people in either a sober or slightly buzzed condition.
I do not advise this to victim shame. In sexual assaults, It is NEVER the victim’s fault for being too intoxicated. Rather, I advise this because cowardly attackers on this campus, from what I have observed, are generally enabled by extreme intoxication. I suggest going home with people sober. Yes, sexual assault can happen at any time, but at least you are increasing your chance to control this situation and potentially fight back. It’s scary to consider interactions in this way, but with such high (and real) statistics, it is imperative.
3. Do not, I beg of you, do not ditch your drunk friend in the room of a person he/she/them has been “talking to.” Do not, I beg of you, leave your intoxicated friend in anybody’s room but your own—period. You may have heard of the University of Colorado Boulder assault case where the attacker promised to stay with the drunk, “helpless” girl, checked her pulse for show, and the raped her as soon as her friends cleared out. You may have been struck by the depravity, but that happens on THIS campus—more often than you’d like to believe.
If you really cannot take care of your friend, do not resort to the boy across the hall or the girl he has been loosely talking to. Even then, sexual assaults are often not heteronormative, so it may not even be enough that you leave your drunk friend with someone of their own gender. If you or someone you trust dearly with your own life cannot personally watch over your friend, then call Campus Safety and envoke the Good Samaritan Policy.
4. If you don’t experience sexual assault directly, chances are someone you love will. And when they talk to you, please do not question their memory or doubt their assault happened. Listen to them, love them, and offer them support like the kind soul I know you are. If they tell you within hours or days of it happening, urge them to seek medical help. Urge them to seek help with our Sexual Misconduct Advisors or to seek help with the Counseling Center.
5. If you never cross paths will sexual assault, you most definitely will cross paths with survivors. Be kind—when engaging in discussions, the general use of the “r-word” or even “assault” is to be treated with caution.
6. Use the “Find Friends” app on your iPhone. Make sure all of your friends are linked to the app, as it will give you their exact location if you lose them. Break down somebody’s door if you have to.
7. Watch out for sketchy situations. Trust your gut instincts and have a code word among your friends to signal if someone or something seems odd. If you see a person escorting someone out of a party, and one is clearly more sober than the other, offer to help. Offer to help or call someone if you see a person at a party who is clearly not handling themselves or their alcohol. Familiarize yourself with the Good Samaritan Policy. Help will always be given to those at Kenyon who ask for it.
8. Familiarize yourself with consent for you and your potential partner—read the Title IX policy, and know that while “Yes” and “No” are crucial to consent, expressions of consent and lack thereof are far more nuanced than those two words. Consent is not like tea.
I give you this advice because I do not want your Kenyon experience to be dulled or dampened by a situation like this. I acknowledge you are all capable of making your own decisions. However, sometimes it is difficult to make informed decisions if you are not entirely aware of the large issue of sexual assault here on campus. I provide this perspective in hopes it will keep you and others safe. Good luck out there, and know that I am rooting for you in all your endeavors.
Becca Pachl ‘19
Campus Safety: 740-427-5000, or, in case of emergency, 740-427-5555
Sexual Misconduct Advisors: 740-358-1544
Peer Counselors: 740-398-3806
Image Credit: In My Sacred Space