Improving Campus Culture for Sexual Assault Victims: A Conversation With @TrinSurvivors

5 min read

Caitlin Doherty ’26

News Editor

Following a hiatus, the @TrinSurvivors Instagram page returned to posting student and alumni stories on March 2, 2023. The account’s goal is to share the stories of students and alumni that have experienced sexual violence at Trinity and to hold administration accountable for its poor response to these incidents. The two @TrinSurvivors founders, who wish to remain anonymous for privacy reasons, were both victims of sexual violence at Trinity. They reflected in an interview with the Tripod on why they decided to create this account and why they have continued to remain active; “We wanted to open up a space to allow people to talk about their experiences and have a voice and be heard anonymously separate from Trinity itself, that we felt was kind of failing us.” The account posted for the first time on June 19, 2020, and has shared over 275 posts since its inception. Individuals submit their stories through an anonymous form linked on the Instagram page, and, after they are reviewed to remove any private information, their story is shared to the account. The last time the account was active was in October and January, when they posted in support of the two former students who are suing Trinity due to Title IX violations after they were assaulted by a student-athlete, an incident the College failed to properly address through the federal Title IX process. The announcement of the lawsuit led to renewed advocacy across the Trinity community to demand action from administration. 

@TrinSurvivors’ first post since its hiatus is from a former student who transferred from Trinity after being raped during their freshman year. “I reported an incident to Title IX at my college [Trinity], yet was told that I had to wait until at least January to speak with the counseling center. [The assault occurred in late October.] They said it wasn’t urgent enough, even though I was having panic attacks and suicidal thoughts. I wasn’t a high priority.” This individual’s experience mirrors the over two hundred fifty others shared on the account, demonstrating Trinity’s failed response to address sexual harassment, assault, and rape on campus and its lack of support for students who have experienced this violence.  

As one @TrinSurvivors post from March 6 shared, “Why would students come forward if they are not going to be protected? Continually, students are told that Greek organizations and sports teams are important to campus funding. It is always about the money. Is the administration proud that they allow this campus culture? Nothing has improved since 2021.” Last fall, three swastikas were carved into a Jewish student’s dorm in Ogilby Hall, the dormitory for members of St. Anthony’s Hall, a fraternity on campus. Campus Safety received a report of the incident on Sunday, September 18. Despite this incident taking place within a fraternity residence hall, four days later on September 22, the College’s official social media pages shared posts advertising “Greek Giving Week,” encouraging donations to Greek Life on campus. Throughout the week, the campaign raised over $62,000. The post quotes a current Greek Life student, who stated, “The Greek community has given me a true sense of belonging and community on campus. Greek Life at Trinity has truly shaped who I am as a student, a friend, and soon to be alumnus of the college.” While this may be the experience of many who have participated in Greek Life, these members are complacent with the sexual violence, racism, and bigotry of their “brothers” and “sisters.” As the same @TrinSuvivors post shared, “The student body is also responsible to some degree. Despite people coming forward, they still remain friends with those individuals and attend their parties.” Through a database they kept through the summer of 2020, the founders of @TrinSurvivors identified fraternities and sports teams with the most reports of assaults based on the submissions they received.  

Receiving almost three hundred responses from students that were survivors of sexual assault and collecting this data was overwhelming and emotional for both founders of the account. “It was such an isolating experience going through the process [of reporting through Title IX and healing from this trauma] at Trinity, that when we had this idea [to start @TrinSurvivors] I had no idea what was going to come out of this…I had no idea the gravity or the reach that this would have.” The overflowing support for their account and message was bolstered by the letter they sent to the College with a list of demands for change. Although President Berger Sweeney sent a public response to these demands promising change, the founders were disappointed because they felt the College was simply placating them and was not truly dedicated to creating long-lasting change in Trinity’s culture. While they are no longer students at Trinity, they feel that the fact that submissions with stories of sexual assault continue to be sent to their account almost three years after it was founded signals that proper change has yet to be instated.  

“Being a little more separated now…this is definitely still a problem there [Trinity], and we want to be a part of uplifting voices again. We really want to hopefully get out the word to students that are currently at Trinity that it is a resource and make it a stable platform for students.” After taking a break for their own mental health and healing, the founders hope to continue to be active on @TrinSurvivors in the future. “Even if you aren’t feeling heard by your friends or administration…we are a resource for that, and you don’t have to feel alone.”  

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