SAFER CAMPUSES, COMMUNITY
YWCA Campus Advocate Jessica Matthews and a team of student interns representing Whitman College, Walla Walla University, and Walla Walla Community College, hosted a tri-college summit on sexual violence, “Building Community Through Justice and Healing,” Oct. 25 as part of Domestic Violence Action Month.
“I was searching for examples of sexual violence programming on other college campuses,” said Jessica, “and was inspired by Ohio University’s 2019 national student leadership summit, ‘It’s On Us’.” She was also searching for Covid-safe programming, something that could be done online.
“And I thought, how about a virtual summit?”
Ever since Jessica started in her position of YWCA Campus Advocate nearly three years ago, she has been striving to create more tri-college
programming in Walla Walla.
“Though my campus work was initially focused primarily on Whitman, I quickly became interested in engaging students, faculty, and staff from our other two nearby campuses in conversations about the painful but important topic of campus sexual violence,” Jessica said. “I recruited a team of seven excellent interns from all three colleges, who each brought unique skills. The team of interns and I collaborated with staff members from each school, holding weekly virtual planning meetings to make the summit a reality.”
Events like these, said Helena Zindel, Whitman student and YWCA intern, begin vital conversations regarding the ways in which sexual assault is handled on college campuses.
“These conversations will hopefully lead to tangible actions on the part of colleges and lawmakers,” Helena said, “reforms that ensure that colleges take instances of sexual violence seriously and do not use their institutional power to discredit and disbelieve survivors.”
Whitman student and YWCA intern Mia Reese appreciated that the summit emphasized the importance of healing and the ways that communities and institutions can either ameliorate or exacerbate the trauma experienced by survivors.
Professor Nicole Bedera presented “The Hard Part Isn’t Over: Ensuring Title IX Reporting and Resources Don’t Harm Survivors”
Professor Nicole Bedera’s keynote address shed light on the changes made to Title IX under the leadership of Betsy DeVos and made clear the need for urgent action and support on behalf of the movement to end campus violence.
Breakout sessions after the keynote featured a range of topics, from healing from trauma and loss to a guided discussion on Jon Krakauer’s book, Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town.
The summit on campus sexual violence was the first of what Jessica intends to be an annual tri-college event, one she hopes next year can safely be held in person.
Though we are sad that Jessica Matthews will not return in 2021, her efforts engaging students, faculty, staff, and community members can contribute to future safer campuses and a safer community.
“Next year’s Campus Advocate,” said Mary Byrd, YWCA Director of Client Services, “will have strong connections and traditions to build on.”