by Bess Pearson
How safe are you at Sewanee? While many feel secure on the Domain, frequent sexual assault erodes the sense of safety for many students. Last semester alone, thirty-one cases of sexual assault were reported. On a campus where the administration has not always dealt with sexual assault well, it number represents only part of a much larger pool of victims. According to data compiled by the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault, one in four women will be sexually assaulted during her time at college.
Stemming from an alarming spike in reports of on-campus rapes, the media has latched onto this issue, making it a top story in major publications ranging from Cosmopolitan to The New York Times even acting as a catalyst for political action taken by the Obama Administration. These articles and acts not only condemn the act of sexual assault, but also the ways in which administration chooses to deal with said cases. That’s where Sewanee Safe and Sound comes in. Sewanee Safe and Sound is a letter-writing campaign begun by Madison Cornwell (C’16) to help rethink the way he University of the South deals with sexual assault. However, Cornwell made it clear that the blame does not lie solely within the administration saying, “students need to get involved.” Her solution is a bottom-up approach that aims to prevent sexual assault from occurring. This differs from the Women’s Center that specializes more so in recovery for victims.
“We are not condemning sex, we are just focusing on promoting safe sex.” Cornwell’s definition does not just lay within the parameters of contraceptives, “it’s about consent and establishing a universal definition of consent for this campus.”
One of the most unique aspects of this initiative is that it is not just for women. “We want to make it clear that we are here to help both men and women. Sexual assault is not just an issue for females.” Furthermore, Safe and Sound is a completely student-run organization that receives no compensation from the University and is not affiliated with the administration. Safe and Sound has already begun to assert their presence on campus and has made it clear that they will not rest until true change occurs.