Uniting Together Against Sexual Assault

Dear Wake Forest community,

Across our shared University, we continually strive for an environment that is welcoming and safe. I take this responsibility seriously. This weekend, our community raised important questions about how we must work together to confront issues related to student conduct and sexual assault on campus. I hear your voices, and I see your courage.

I am committed to preventing sexual assault on our campus, and I feel deep empathy for those who have shared their stories of survivorship. No person should have to endure sexual assault, nor should they fear coming forward with their experience.

Based upon the concerns raised and the assessment to date, I am taking the following action steps and asking for your engaged participation moving forward.

First, in addition to caring for those most directly affected, I have asked our Campus Life staff to reach out and meet with small groups of students to hear concerns and talk about the student conduct and Title IX processes. Teams of people across campus — including the Safe Office, the University Counseling Center, and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion — are offering support to those who have experienced harm and are seeking assistance. If you have been sexually assaulted, I encourage you to reach out for support.

Second, I have asked for a review of how we communicate our current processes, ensure the robustness of our resources and strive for prevention of misconduct and sexual assault. This includes our prevention education and training strategies, student conduct and Title IX processes, and rights and resources for involved students. One part of this review will be accomplished through our current engagement of an outside consulting group regarding Campus Life resources.

Third, I am partnering with key student leaders to engage student organizations in understanding the many ways that issues of sexual misconduct divide our campus, and to consider how we can work to close those fissures. In what ways can we unite together to enable us to continually aspire to be a better community?

Moving forward, we all need to be part of the solution to help foster a more positive and safer environment where everyone can thrive. It is critical that we be able to talk about serious issues in a productive way. And as we show support for those who have been harmed, we must take care not to inflict injury on others in the process. In our discussions, we must be careful to not spread misinformation and use anonymous social media outlets which too often exacerbate already complex situations.

Additionally, I ask that we let this moment serve as a catalyst for broader community care and advocacy for survivors of sexual assault and other types of trauma. Many in our community have had devastating lived experiences who have not felt the outpouring of support that was shown by students this weekend. We have an opportunity to build a more supportive environment and create a more robust culture of prevention.

We can only become better when we acknowledge our problems and seek out solutions. I’m asking you to join me in this work. We can do it together, and we must.

Sincerely,

Susan R. Wente, Ph.D.
President

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