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Research By Oxy Seniors Exposes Realities of Sexual Assault and How Colleges Can Prevent It

May 16, 2013

Three Occidental College Seniors, Rachel Baer (Politics), Fátima A. Avellán (Urban and Environmental Policy), and Nona Gronert (Sociology)  completed their senior comprehensives on the topics of sexual assault and its prevention. Their extensive work provides a more complete picture of the experiences of survivors of sexual violence at Oxy and outlines best practices for sexual assault prevention at Liberal Arts colleges, including Occidental.

Baer, who received honors and distinction for her research, surveyed survivors at Occidental, gathering information about patterns of violence on campus, experiences reporting, and how violence has impacted people’s experiences as Oxy students. “Action as Deliberate Indifference: Sexual Assault at Occidental College” ultimately finds Oxy in violation of Title IX and the guidelines in the Dear Colleague Letter. Baer’s research paints a very disturbing but true picture of what sexual assault actually looks like at Oxy which will hopefully be used as a powerful tool to combat violence on campus.

Avellán’s distinction awarded research explored best practices for prevention efforts at Liberal Arts colleges, using Oxy, Carleton College, and Pomona as case studies. Avellán conducted extensive interviews with administrators, faculty, and students at the three institutions to address her research question: “What are the determining factors (or “pre-conditions”) that help lead small liberal arts colleges to achieve best practices and policies for sexual violence prevention?” Avellán identifies six determining factors in her findings and provides recommendations to help Occidental improve their prevention efforts.

Gronert’s research on consent, which earned distinction, addressed the question: “What role do ideas about sexual consent play in people’s perceptions of sex scenes in popular media?” Gronert used clips from TV shows and interviewed 19 students finding there was no unified interpretation of sexual consent. These findings communicate a serious need for clarification on campuses of how one can ask for consent and under what conditions sexual permission can and cannot be communicated.

Avellán, Gronert, and Baer have spent their last semesters at Occidental doing amazing, important work and we appreciate and acknowledge the powerful tools for reform they have provided not only the Oxy community, but the greater cause of eradicating sexual violence from college campuses. We thank them for their work and allowing us to share it here!

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