Sexual Violence Among College Students: A Jamaica Plain Community Issue

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Sexual violence among students impacts 1 in 4 women and 1 in 16 men (1). These numbers are staggering and overwhelming, but it is important, not to become numb to those numbers, and to remember that they impact the people all around us.

With upwards of 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students living in Jamaica Plain, studying across different universities, this problem is particularly critical for our community. Setting the rate of prevalence against the student population of our neighborhood, we can estimate that of the 4,000 current students living in our community, 625 of our community members will be sexually assaulted during their time in college. This number is appalling, but to most college students, it is tragically unsurprising.

Sexual violence in college not only impacts the students currently in school living in our neighborhood, but also those who have long since graduated, who have survived this kind of violence, and carry that weight behind them. It ripples beyond survivors themselves, impacting their families. Parents and students should be focused on education and independence, not living in fear of sexual predators and rape culture.

It is time we stop looking at this “silent epidemic” as only a school issue and recognize that it is a matter of public health that impacts our communities and our neighbors. It is too easy to write off these statistics as only numbers, until we recognize that this impacts the student studying next to you in a coffee shop. It impacts the students you see buying groceries at Stop & Shop or Whole Foods. It impacts the many members of our community who have since graduated as
survivors of this violence, and become long term members of our neighborhood.

Complex problems are rarely solved with simple solutions, which is why students from our community have banded together with other college students across our state to identify best practices across the country and to push for legislation that will begin the long process of progress in combating sexual assault and supporting survivors.

Thanks to compassionate and thoughtful state representatives, we have seen success in drafting and proposing legislation that takes the first step in combating sexual violence in college. One bill institutes anonymous surveys on the prevalence and perception of sexual violence on college campuses, a step considered the gold standard in identifying underlying causes of sexual violence and possible solutions in any community. Another bill provides training for students and employees on sexual assault prevention as well as mandates basic supports and protections for survivors who are coming forward to report assaults. Together, these bills have the potential to truly change sexual violence on campus.

Students of Jamaica Plain, like us, are left with one question. What are we waiting for? The bills have seen great momentum and broad public support, including movement through committees and great consensus. They are supported by Jane Doe Inc., the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, and even the presidents of all 15 Community Colleges of Massachusetts.

These bills currently sit in front of the Massachusetts Committee on Ways & Means, chaired by our very own representative, Jeffrey Sanchez. And so this is our open letter to Representative Sanchez, and all of the members of our Jamaica Plain community, please stand with students. Please stand with survivors. Please take action on these bills.

JP community members, if you would like to stand with students, please call Rep. Sanchez’s office to express support for these two bills at 617-722-2990.

Martha Durkee-Neuman and Erin Thornton are residents of Jamaica Plain and both attend Northeastern University

(1 Krebs, C., Lindquist, C., Warner, T., Fisher, B., & Martin, S. (2007). “The campus sexual assault (CSA) study: Final report.”
National Criminal Justice Reference Service.)
Martha Durkee-Neuman and Erin Thornton are residents of Jamaica Plain and both attend Northeastern University