Posters championing self-worth adorned the walls of the Michigan League Ballroom Thursday night for the fourth annual Panhellenic Speak Out. The event, hosted by the Sexual Violence Education and Empowerment branch of the Panhellenic Peer Educators, provided a confidential space for survivors of sexual violence to share their stories.
Quiet moments of contemplation swept across the room following the powerful stories of sexual assault. Audience members were invited to share their experiences in an open, unmoderated forum. Individuals spoke for themselves and read anonymous submissions, expressing their pain and processes of healing through short stories, poems and unscripted reflections.
Due to the highly sensitive and confidential nature of the event, The Daily was asked to refrain from recording or quoting speakers.
LSA junior Charlotte Hoppen, interim director of education for PPE, explained the role peer educators play in assisting victims of sexual assault both on campus and within the Ann Arbor community.
“We train all the PPEs on how to respond to disclosures of sexual misconduct and sexual assault and on how to provide resources in the campus community and around the community of Ann Arbor,” Hoppen said. “We train them to provide presentations on consent, sexual misconduct, responding to disclosures and resources for all new member classes in the Panhellenic community.”
Hoppen went on to discuss why having resources like PPE is crucial to empowering women, especially within the Greek life community.
“Greek life, in particular, is an at-risk group on campus,” she said. “10.3 percent of (on-campus rapes) take place in fraternity houses … so it’s especially important that we are empowering women to not only to be in safe situations and help others in need, but also to work and advocate on behalf of themselves.”
Recently, the University of Michigan announced a revision to the student sexual misconduct policy, wherein students must take part in an in-person meeting between the accuser, the accused and any witnesses involved if requested to do so. The policy revision follows a recent U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, in which public universities “must give the accused student or his agent an opportunity to cross-examine the accuser.”
A student, who asked to remain anonymous for privacy reasons, reflected on the implications the policy revision may have on students going through the process of reporting misconduct.
“In the future, I don’t see this policy doing any good for survivors,” she said. “What they don’t realize is, if survivors have to sit in the same room as their perpetrator and be questioned by them, how traumatizing that can be. Reporting as a whole is traumatizing in and of itself, and seeing the person is so awful they’re trying to process something already, and seeing the person’s face can take so much away from you.”
LSA freshman Cammie Dalton discussed how events like the Speak Out can assist individuals in their healing process.
“It’s really important to listen to people’s stories and emphasize that you believe people’s stories,” Dalton said. “It’s important to feel like you can come forward, because it’s such a big step of recovery.”
Additionally, she discussed how the aura of acceptance and affirmation permeating the event allowed for an environment conducive to emotional healing.
“Events like this are necessary because of the setting,” she said. “For people to feel comfortable, it depends on who they are around. If they get a vibe that people are going to be accepting and actually be listening — not just present — events like this will be really helpful for their recovery.”