SPARTA, NJ - Every desk in room 211 was filled during lunch on Thursday, when students in Sparta High School’s senior Women’s Studies class and members of the Feminist Activist Group came to hear Tracey Vitchers speak about sexual assault on college campuses.
Vitchers is the Chief Development Officer for Sexual Health Innovations a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating technology that will advance sexual health and wellbeing in the United States. She is also Chair of the Board for SAFER, a national campus sexual violence prevention organization.
During an informative presentation, Vitchers discussed the troubling truth about the prevalence of assault on college campuses. She shared statistics, personal stories and advice with the students in attendance.
She also discussed ways in which organizations and companies are trying the combat the issue. She explained SHI’s Callisto, recently developed third-party college sexual assault recording and reporting system.
Vitchers encouraged students to “know their IX.” Title IX is best known for its impact on high school and collegiate athletics, but it is much more than that. As part of the Education Amendments of 1972, the act enforces gender equity in education and requires educational institutions that receive federal financial aid to take immediate steps to end sexual harassment and sexual violence.
Vitchers suggested that students look up the list of colleges currently under investigation for violation of Title IX, a list that includes about 100 institutions. “You need to hold colleges accountable,” she said, “and you must be aware of their policies, before you decide to give them your money.”
After listening to the presentation, senior Lexi Rabbitt said she learned that “some colleges punish the victims of sexual assault rather than the assailants, in order to silence the issue and protect the college’s reputation.”
When SHS senior Rebecca Senatore asked about what the Feminist Activist Club can do to help, Vitchers said that poster campaigns are always informative, especially during April, which is sexual assault awareness month.
Kat Buchanan, also a Sparta senior, said that Vitchers “was very knowledgeable and I’m thankful that she provided us with such detailed information about the dangers we could potentially face in college.”
Senior Emily Johnson said it was “eye-opening to learn how little most universities do to help,” but that Vitchers' “passion for ending sexual assault gave me hope that this epidemic can be ended through the work of our generation.”