Content Warning: this article discusses sensitive subjects such as sexual assault, domestic violence, and intimate partner violence.
The Boston College Women’s Center hosted CARE Week March 21-26 to spread awareness about sexual assault, domestic violence, and intimate partner violence (IPV). CARE (Concern About Rape Education) Week tackles these intimate and difficult issues with meaningful, eye-opening events and opportunities. This past week included a talk from counseling professionals, a community gathering to show support for victims of abuse, and a mass held in solidarity with victims of sex crimes. The week addressed issues of SA, DV, and IPV and the intersectionality with college life, race, immigration, and culture as a whole.
FACES, a conversation-driven anti-racist group on campus, coordinated with the Women’s Center for one of the week’s main events: “Immigration and Survivorship.” The presentation on Monday night welcomed two professionals and their expertise surrounding sexual assault and survivor counseling. The speakers answered questions about the forces that drive sexual assault and how those forces most affect women of immigrant backgrounds.
Immigrant women in particular face an added level of fear surrounding sexual assault, and stigma alone prevents many victims from coming forward. However, institutional pressures on immigrants force many to take their survival into their own hands. Issues such as the fear of deportation or the risk of losing housing or medical care discourage women from speaking up. These things that many people take for granted encourage silence in the lives of immigrant survivors of assault.
For those who do come forward, immigrants or not, the fear of discrimination continues. Women of color are more likely to have to report their assault in their medical records when coming forward about their experiences with assault. This documentation process ensures that survivors must relive their trauma not only when coming forward for the first time, but every consecutive time when they want to see a doctor. This added stress dissuades women of color more than any other group. It follows that many immigrant women and women of color face increased emotional trauma from sexual assault. Many that live with rape and sexual assault struggle with some form of suicidal ideation as a result. CARE Week aims to raise awareness about the sometimes invisible struggles for survivors.
Beyond the intersectionality of racism and sexual assault as a whole, CARE Week brings attention to sexual assault on college campuses. Boston College, for the most part, “operates on the mindset that if they don’t openly talk about an issue, then it doesn’t exist,” said FACES member and Women’s Center employee Deborah Aboaba, MCAS ‘21.
Colleges generally foster a culture that downplays sexual assault and its prevalence. While this aversive mindset exists, it remains that “among undergraduate students, 26.4% of females and 6.8% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation,” according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.
The pervasiveness of sexual assault on campus highlights the necessity of events like CARE Week. BC may downplay or avoid talking about the subject, but spreading awareness can only help to reduce the stigma and bolster resources for those who are dealing with sexual assault, domestic violence, or IPV.
“Education is key to everything,” said Aboaba, “If you want to understand more…you have to put in the effort to read things, attend events, and reach out to organizations that support these populations and get more information about how you can be an active and involved ally.”
For those looking to become an ally to those around them, the Women’s Center offers resources like BC Bystanders, which offers information and programs focused on consent and sexual assault awareness. In addition to bystander information, the Women’s Center offers support to those that have encountered sexual assault through the Sexual Assault Network, or SANet. CARE Week not only provides informative events and opportunities for students to better themselves on topics of sexual assault, but it also offers a starting point for BC community members, allowing them to learn to become active allies in the fight against sexual assault.