Based on student survey data in 2019, 18% of students reported being sexually assaulted during their time at Kenyon, a rate 80% higher than peer institutions and an 84% increase from 2015. Wednesday, Kenyon released the most recent data from February 2022, albeit with a lower survey response rate, in which Kenyon students are still assaulted at a rate that is 27% higher than at peer institutions. The only dedicated sexual assault support service on campus is an advocate from New Directions, the domestic abuse shelter and sexual violence crisis center located in Mount Vernon, who comes to the Cox Health and Counseling Center 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. every Tuesday. Survivors at Kenyon College are in uniquely vulnerable circumstances due to a lack of sexual assault advocacy, support and prevention resources. Kenyon College is in need of confidential sexual assault peer-support services.
In 2018, sixteen students established the Sexual Respect Peer Alliance (SRPA), a group that organizes peer-support and other resources for sexual assault advocacy, support and prevention. From the spring of 2020 until the fall of 2022, SRPA was not a student organization under Kenyon, but an extension of New Directions. Using New Directions’ resources, SRPA supporters underwent 40 hours of sexual assault advocacy training, becoming official state advocates certified through the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence (OAESV), Ohio’s rape crisis coalition.
SRPA provided advocacy and peer support to survivors of sexual assault on Kenyon’s campus and served as one of the few confidential resources students could seek out. These confidential services consisted of emotional support, assistance in navigating Title IX processes and help accessing local healthcare resources, as well as legal advocacy, suicide prevention and more. Through our trusted relationships with fellow students, SRPA was the most accessible sexual assault advocacy and support resource at Kenyon. On Aug. 15, the Executive Director of New Directions abruptly ended our partnership in an email to SRPA, stating, “New Directions appreciates our ongoing collaborative efforts with Kenyon College and the multiple departments in which we partner. We also recognize the importance of nurturing these partnerships with our loyalty being to Kenyon College as an institution and not any one group over another.” Without New Directions’ partnership, SRPA has been unable to provide peer support to survivors as we had in previous semesters. SRPA is no longer an extension of an OAESV affiliate, which is necessary for SRPA members to maintain their status as state certified sexual assault advocates, and we now lack the institutional backing that protected us via legal representation.
When support services are not confidential, providers act as mandated reporters and are required to disclose any suspicion of sexual assault to a Title IX coordinator. In 2018, the Health Center revoked the Peer Counselors’ confidentiality, rendering their services inaccessible. The same happened with the Sexual Misconduct Advisors (SMAs), a confidential peer-run hotline through the Health Center. The SMAs then disbanded, and most of them went on to establish SRPA, as the decision to end their confidentiality by the Health Center leadership exacerbated the lack of support services at Kenyon. New Direction’s termination of affiliation with SRPA is the most recent loss of confidential peer-support services at Kenyon.
This semester, SRPA members met with leaders of sexual assault peer-support groups at other colleges and found that Kenyon is woefully lacking in basic resources for survivors, such as having full-time sexual assault advocacy and support staff and active peer-support networks. At Kenyon, the Title IX process through the Office for Civil Rights is often viewed as the sole resource for survivors of sexual violence. For survivors who do not wish to pursue institutional processes, which in themselves can be intimidating and retraumatizing, it is imperative that there is access to ample confidential support resources, where the information disclosed is not required to be reported to Kenyon. Currently, there are no sexual assault peer-support services available on campus. This must change.
Peer support is not a privilege, it is a right. For SRPA, the needs of Kenyon students are foundational in our advocacy, support services, programming, organization and training priorities. Since the start of the fall semester, we have worked to figure out how to best move forward in continuing to provide resources to our community. As we work to increase resources on campus for sexual assault survivors, your voices and contributions are essential. If you are interested in participating in a conversation on how survivors can better be supported at Kenyon, we encourage you to reach out to us via our email,
firstname.lastname@example.org, with any opinions or feelings. We will also send a Google form for those who wish to remain anonymous. Next semester, we will organize a town hall to promote community discourse surrounding support services. We hope that each and every Kenyon student who wants their voice represented will be a part of this conversation.
In an environment where students’ needs are often not prioritized, we want students to know that we are actively working to increase access to the services you need. If you or someone you know is in need of confidential support, we encourage you to reach out to New Directions via their hotline, 740-397-4357 or website, or use other trusted Kenyon resources.
The Sexual Respect Peer Alliance (SRPA)
Lucie Canzoniero ’25
Tess Abraham-Macht ’25
Alison Buckley ’23
Julia Majesky ’23
Jess Besca ’24
August Hochman ’23
Ella Crowther ’25
Arianna Garcia ’25
Kinsey Uzelac ’23
Caroline Gill ’23
Catie Mendivil ’24
Flynn Klace ’23
Lee Nah ’25
Caleb Stern ’23