TO THE EDITOR:
We were part of a standing-room-only crowd in the Great Hall Wednesday night (Oct. 12) that listened in awe as dozens of brave survivors shared their stories of sexual assault. The “Our Story” event began and ended with a call for UNC to form a survivor-led committee to provide feedback and consultation on the University’s sexual assault policy. There is a recent precedent for this, which may be helpful as the Carolina community considers next steps.
In January 2015, Congress passed the Survivors of Human Trafficking Empowerment Act, to establish the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking. The Council is comprised exclusively of survivors of trafficking — the recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud or coercion. The law now affords survivor-advocates an official venue to provide input on federal anti-trafficking policies. The 11 members are guided by their unique experiences with exploitation, and united in their commitment to eradicate trafficking and aid its victims in recovery.
Although UNC’s 2013 Sexual Assault Task Force (responsible for the current Policy On Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment and Related Misconduct) included members with issue expertise, it did not include as standing members who openly identified as sexual assault survivors. The testimonials offered Wednesday — in which survivors described a well-intentioned but deeply flawed system that failed them more times than not — are the strongest indicator of the need for sustained survivor input to processes and policy related to campus sexual assault.
We were moved by survivors’ willingness to trust us with their stories and believe the University should likewise trust them, by establishing a formal, survivor-led committee to inform UNC’s sexual assault policy.
We stand in solidarity with survivors of sexual violence.
Anne Johnston, Professor
Barbara Friedman, Associate Professor
Co-Directors, The Irina Project
School of Media & Journalism
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