Bringing the Intersections to the Forefront in the Fight to End Campus Sexual Assault

End Rape on Campus (EROC) today launched Centering the Margins (CTM)—an initiative to protect students most vulnerable to sexual violence by providing culturally-competent resources that center their needs and experiences.

Through a blog series and numerous resources centered on laws, policies and healing housed on EROC’s website, CTM amplifies the voices of students targeted by the current administration and assists students organizing for a just future and equal access to education. CTM’s online presence includes various ways to take action against sexual violence—for example, how to create allyship workshops or bring a CTM speaker to your campus—and provides specific resources for undocumented and international survivors, survivors with disabilities, trans and gender non-conforming survivors and survivors of color.

“You’ve probably heard the statistic that 1 in 5 cisgender women will be sexually assaulted in college,” EROC Programs & Operations Director Chardonnay Madkins wrote to members in an announcement today. “However, few are aware that Native American women are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted as all other races or that nearly half of transgender people will experience sexual assault or abuse in their lifetime. Even fewer discuss the experiences and challenges faced by survivors who live at the intersection of multiple marginalizations, such as LGBTQ people of color or Black people with disabilities. Yet, when we fail to acknowledge these experiences, we fail marginalized survivors and communities, and we are unable to achieve our vision of a world free from sexual violence. Every day that we are silent is a day that we are complicit in the violence marginalized communities face.”

EROC’s initative launches on the heels of efforts by lawmakers to reverse Betsy DeVos’ startling—and dangerous—decision to rescind previous guidance on Title IX that had been issued by the Department of Education to protect survivors of sexual assault. But laws that explicitly address women’s rights aren’t the only ones on the chopping block—and they aren’t the only policies silencing sexual assault survivors who live at the intersections. The Trump administration, for example, has also taken aim at LGBTQ students and immigrant students.

“High rates of sexual violence in school coupled with insufficient access to resources force many marginalized students, including students of color, students with disabilities and more, out of school,” EROC explained in a statement today. “The Trump administration has jeopardized these already vulnerable communities by threatening legal protections including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status, and protections from discrimination issued in previous Department of Education guidance. The sustained attacks on civil and human rights have left marginalized students concerned about their safety and ability to pursue their education. With the federal government making campuses safer for perpetrators of violence, survivor advocacy must address the multiple factors that disproportionately affect disenfranchised students.”

However timely, CTM is also a much-needed counter to long-standing patterns of sexual violence and gaps in conversations on rape culture. Statistics show that although relative degrees of privilege don’t necessarily keep women safe on campus, compounding forms of discrimination uniquely put students at the intersections at risk. Women of color are more likely to be sexually assaulted than their white peers. Nearly one in four trans or gender non-conforming college students experience sexual assault, and 73 percent of LGBTQ students experience harassment or abuse. (A striking report from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network states that “most LGBT students of color reported feeling unsafe at school.”) 22 percent of college students with disabilities report experiencing sexual abuse. Furthermore, sexual assault is expensive—and, as a result, low-income students are hit particularly hard by the financial burden of their physical and emotional trauma.

By centering these statistics and the lived experiences they represent, EROC intends to support those most vulnerable to sexual violence on campus. CTM recognizes the nuances and multiplicities of assault and focuses on those often missed due to systems of domination. The initiative brings a much-needed intersectional lens to activism around sexual violence in campus communities as well as resources and solutions offered to survivors.

As Madkins said in her statement: “It’s imperative that we center marginalized communities in advocacy. We must alter our perception of survivors and envision them to be inclusive of LGBQ people, trans and non-binary people, people with disabilities, people of color, and all people who are discriminated against on multiple fronts.”



Taliah Mancini is an editorial intern at Ms. Magazine.