On Meaningful, Survivor-Centered, and Trauma-Informed Responses to Sexual Violence
Time’s Up Ateneo fully stands by the survivors who have spoken up in recent days about the harm that was caused to them by one of this year’s OrSem hosts. Time’s Up Ateneo offers the survivors our full support, as they face backlash, victim blaming, and anonymous online bullying as a result of their decision to speak their truth.
We also express our indignation over the statement released by OrCom on 19 August 2021, which harms all survivors, including those who have recently spoken out.
In any situation of sexual violence and misconduct, we are all called to be allies of survivors, by honoring the trust they put in us when they approach us; by believing them when they speak their difficult truths; and by holding abusers and their enablers accountable. Sadly, OrCom’s statement harms survivors in several ways.
First, OrCom’s statement reduces survivors’ experiences to a matter of mere paperwork. While baselessly insinuating that the survivors who recently spoke up did not at least attempt to engage in due process, the statement also turns a blind eye to the many survivors who have been failed by due process. Indeed, Time’s Up Ateneo’s experience has shown time and again that Ateneo’s processes have failed survivors, and many past survivors are still struggling to get justice from Ateneo. OrCom has no right to limit the survivors’ options for their pursuit of justice and healing, including the full use of their right to free speech in the assertion of their rights.
Second, OrCom claimed that “all parties involved received the necessary support.” Such “necessary support” is not for OrCom, but for survivors themselves to define. Furthermore, OrCom’s statement did not provide support, and worse, did more harm than good — Time’s Up Ateneo thus questions whether survivors were meaningfully or sufficiently engaged by OrCom.
Third, the OrCom’s statement incorrectly claims that the host in question is not accused of misconduct. Betrayal of trust in the context of a case of sexual violence is misconduct by any measure and in a great number of ways. Those who betray survivors’ trust run afoul of school regulations and of many legal protections that have been instituted to protect survivors, such as the Safe Spaces Act of 2019.
Fourth, OrCom’s highly irresponsible use of such words as “alleged” to refer to survivors who bravely spoke out is demeaning and harmful, whether it was done carelessly or in bad faith.
Fifth, OrCom’s statement implicitly blames survivors for the disruptions to OrSem’s events. This is nothing but pure and simple victim blaming.
Lastly, OrCom’s claim of support for survivors means nothing if the actions they take enable others to bully and silence survivors.
OrSem is meant to be the way by which first year students are welcomed into the community and introduced to the Atenean way. The OrCom’s response to this pressing issue of sexual violence begs the question: Who are they welcoming and who are they excluding from the Atenean community? What values are they promoting when they do not themselves practice solidarity with the marginalized within their very community and when they refuse to be persons for and with others?
We can do better.
We call on the accused to reflect on and take responsibility for the consequences their actions have had on the survivors, who will carry with them the pain of their experience long after OrSem has ended.
We call on OrCom to retract their statement, educate themselves on feminist, survivor-centered, and trauma-informed approaches to sexual violence, and make up for the emotional damage they caused to the survivors. We remain open to engagement with OrCom to develop policies and processes to ensure that this situation does not happen again.
We call on the Ateneo administration and the Sanggunian Commission on Anti-Sexual Misconduct and Violence to work with survivors to prevent this level of retraumatization from ever happening to survivors again. We commend steps that have already been taken to prevent and respond to sexual violence in the University, including the Code of Decorum and Administrative Rules on Sexual Harassment, Other Forms of Sexual Misconduct, and Inappropriate Behavior, and the Sanggunian’s prompt response to the survivors’ concerns.
Finally, we call on the Atenean public to reflect on their actions, to embody Atenean values, and to stand with survivors. We invite you to transform our campus into a safe space, and to help survivors attain justice and healing. There is no place for victim blaming and gaslighting within or outside the walls of Ateneo.
As Time’s Up Ateneo prepares to mark its second anniversary, we are reminded of the urgency of our work to promote survivor-centric community responses to the issue of sexual violence. We remain fully committed to pursuing justice and healing together, and are ready to mobilize our full network and resources in the protection of survivors’ rights. The voices of those standing in solidarity with survivors, especially volunteers and members within OrSem, are meaningful and inspiring to all survivors. To the survivors who spoke up, you are not alone.