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Anti-Rape Program Added

Orientation Activity To Feature Survivor

By Jennifer Krishnan


The administration announced it will add a rape awareness program to the mandatory activities for freshmen during Orientation 2001.

At a meeting yesterday, Associate Dean of Academic Resources and Programming Julie B. Norman informed student supporters that the administration had agreed to every point of their proposal.

“We’re all very excited,” said Radha K. Iyengar ’02, president of Stop Our Silence. “We were expecting to bargain a lot.”

The two-hour program will begin with a talk given by Katie Koestner, a rape survivor, followed by a question-and-answer session, Iyengar said.

Afterwards, the freshmen will be divided into 30 to 50 small groups. The groups will discuss the issues raised during Koestner’s talk over lunch.

Program successful elsewhere

The new rape awareness program will be provided by Campus Outreach Services, Inc. The organization, which is dedicated to increasing rape awareness among students, provides similar programs for first-year students at several other colleges as well.

Iyengar hopes the program will both reduce the occurrence of rapes and increase the rate at which they are reported.

According to a U.S. Naval Academy study of schools that used this program, immediately afterwards, there is usually a “dramatic increase in the number of rapes reported,” Iyengar said. After that, she said, the frequency of reports flattens out to a lower level.

“It will make an environment where survivors can come forward,” Iyengar said.

“Among the top 10 colleges in the country,” she said, referring to the U.S. News and World Report rankings, “the only other school that doesn’t have some kind of rape awareness program [for first-year students] is Caltech. Everyone else has some kind of program.”

The cost of the program will be about $1,000, plus the cost of training students to facilitate the discussion groups. All of the funding for the program will come from the Orientation budget.

Two years of work pays off

Jennifer A. Erwin ’02, a member of Stop Our Silence, said the effort to include rape awareness programming in orientation began two years ago, in conjunction with the Social Justice Cooperative. The effort was revived this year with the participation of several other interested students.

Orientation used to include skits intended to catalyze discussions about various issues, including rape, but the skits were removed from the Orientation program in 1996, Iyengar said.

Orientation 2000 included two similar programs, addressing the issues of sexuality and alcohol. The alcohol talk, the older of the two, was introduced in 1998; the sexuality talk was first included one year later.

Students, faculty support plan

Over 600 members of the MIT community, including Dean of Science Robert J. Silbey and Institute Professor Noam A. Chomsky, signed a petition early this term asking for mandatory rape awareness programming during Orientation.

“Statistically, rape peaks in the first three months of college,” Iyengar said. While many issues are important to address during orientation, Iyengar feels that a discussion of sexual violence would potentially have the greatest impact.

“I’m glad to see the administration putting this amount of importance on sexual violence,” Erwin said. “It shows they take sexual violence seriously.”

Koestner more than expected

“Katie Koestner is more than we expected we’d get, because she’s a very expensive speaker,” Erwin said. “Since we were kept in the dark [about the administration’s plans], we were kind of expecting the worst.”

A victim of date rape during her freshman year at the College of William and Mary, Koestner went public with her story soon afterward. She is the founder of Campus Outreach Services. Her presentation includes an account of her experience and a discussion of rape and sexual violence.