Content warning: This article discusses sexual violence on Bowdoin’s campus.
In April 2021, Safe Space distributed a survey to gauge the student body’s opinions on sexual violence on campus, the administration’s response to instances of sexual violence and continued sex education at Bowdoin. We had a total of 530 survey respondents, with a small majority coming from the Class of 2023.
If you would like to know more about respondent demographics, please look at our full survey report using the QR code available in the online version of this article.
As the leaders of Safe Space, we wanted to use this survey to get an understanding of the student body’s needs and create goals for Safe Space and the College’s administration. We would like to emphasize that we are incredibly grateful for all the work that the Title IX Office and Office of Gender Violence Prevention and Education are already doing to facilitate these conversations on campus. However, our data suggest that the important work done by these offices and their staff needs to be further supplemented by a range of resources and programs to ensure the safety of all students on campus.
There is no denying that sexual violence is present on Bowdoin’s campus. We wanted to figure out the most effective way to address this issue and we felt that gathering new data was necessary to capture the student experience under COVID-19 protocols. Shockingly, 60 percent of student respondents who reported being sexually assaulted on campus did not feel adequately supported by Bowdoin. This is unacceptable. Feeling supported by the College should be the bare minimum—this is not a high expectation. Survivors should feel that their burden is being lessened when seeking assistance, not heightened. We are calling on the administration to hire an additional staff member for the Office of Gender Violence Prevention to show that the College is committed to protecting students and preventing sexual violence on campus.
Considering that 65 percent of our survey respondents know someone who has been sexually assaulted during their time at Bowdoin, we believe that the administration should mandate survivor support and bystander intervention training for student leaders on teams and in clubs. We hope that this will help create a safer campus for survivors and the wider student body alike and lead to a community of supportive peers. In addition, we would like the administration to create mandatory, continuous training surrounding sexual violence prevention and reporting for faculty, coaches and staff. All members of Bowdoin’s community should be aware of and educated about sexual violence prevention.
We feel that it is also vital that Safe Space take action to address sexual violence on campus. The survey found that 39 percent of respondents do not know where to get help on Bowdoin’s campus if they or someone they know has been sexually assaulted. We are committed to bringing in speakers next year from organizations like the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) and Sexual Assault Support Services of Midcoast Maine (SASSMM) to increase awareness and education about sexual violence on campus. We also hope to provide all first years with a laminated page of comprehensive on- and off-campus resources.
Additionally, a majority of respondents said they felt like Bowdoin does not provide adequate or equal resources for students of color and queer students who have experienced sexual violence. Safe Space will also ensure that the resources we promote are inclusive to students of color and queer sexual assault survivors on campus.
The data collected from the Safe Space survey clearly calls for direct action from Safe Space and Bowdoin administration. We hope to work with the College’s administration to protect the safety and emotional well-being of students on campus. Thank you to everyone who responded to our survey and for continuing to support Safe Space.
Jenny Wadhwa, Tara Mullen and JT Woolley are members of the Class of 2023.