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Sexual assault demonstration draws attention to vulgar language policy

Five students stood outside of Edman Chapel on Wednesday holding up a large black banner that read, “Wheaton’s Vulgar Language Policy Silenced My Story. What isn’t vulgar about physical and sexual assault?”
The five students, David Martin, Emily Hutcheson, Steve Reineccius, Maddie Baltzer and Esther Kim, also handed out about 500 pamphlets with a poem inside. In the poem, which uses sexually explicit language and profanity, a woman undergrad tells how a male student last year verbally and physically assaulted her in Saga. A sexual assault later took place inside a campus house. The victim, who has chosen to remain anonymous, stated in an email to The Record that the purpose for the demonstration was to “offer solidarity and encouragement to other survivors, and admonishment and instruction to the rest of campus.” She said via email, “I didn’t report it to the administration because I did not feel safe.” Martin said he participated to “start a conversation about how to deal with this on Wheaton’s campus.”
A few months ago, the victim approached Mindy Inman from the SAO and College Union to propose a project related to the assaults for the Student Art Sound show happening in Lower Beamer. She wanted to display a canvas with the words of her experience painted on it. She said Inman told her that she worried students would miss the important message of the piece. She met with Allison Ash, president of Student Care and Wheaton’s Title 9 coordinator, who expressed initial interest in the project. However, after meeting with Ash’s supervisor and administration, Ash told her that the story could not be displayed anywhere on campus in any form because of its vulgar language.
According to Vice President for Student Development, Paul Chelsen, “The general guidance for this decision came from the community covenant in the Christian living section and the specific guidance comes from the Beamer Center policy guideline, which talks about the care that we take when there is a public display in Beamer.”
The student said she was asked if she was willing to change the language to share her story in another forum, but she declined. She said she responded, “If we are so afraid of vulgar language that we cannot allow victims of vulgar crimes to speak honestly about their experience, we cannot reasonably expect this campus to be a safe place for victims.”
However, Chelsen emphasized that “The college is committed to creating a climate where people feel safe to come forward and report sexual assault because they understand the college is committed to addressing it.”
Following the demonstration, students expressed the importance of supporting survivors of sexual assault through the healing process. Senior Andrew Sedlacek commented that “God has given us brave sisters and brothers who stir up the pot, exposing evils through artistic expression and raw words. They are so important.”

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