An open letter from Fr. Graham

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An Open Letter to Survivors of Sexual Violence at Xavier

At the start of each academic year, I am especially aware of the fact that so many survivors of sexual violence walk among our campus community. Maybe it’s because we know there is a significant increased risk of sexual violence for incoming students in their first year. Perhaps it’s the messaging on sexual violence prevention that we integrate into Manresa. If I dig deeper though, I believe there are two things that lead to my increased awareness: the near-palpable sense of potential in the air at the start of a new year and my own personal knowledge of the vulnerability of that potential to the public health epidemic of sexual violence.

There’s excitement and energy among students as they begin, or continue, their life-changing journeys to find themselves and change the world. But experiencing sexual violence and its devastating impact on every aspect of a student’s life can quickly change the trajectory of that journey and replace that potential with confusion, pain and fear.
Which brings me to Xavier’s responsibility to you. It is my responsibility to share Xavier’s commitment to comprehensively and compassionately address sexual violence — not just because of our requirement to do so under Title IX, but because of the mission that guides and grounds us as a Jesuit university.

We must educate students, faculty and staff on what sexual violence is — your rights, options and resources — and tell you proactively how we can and will support you here. We make this commitment to every student and every survivor regardless of what paths you determine are right for you in seeking healing and recovery.

To the survivors on our campus: If I may borrow from the words of Vice President Joe Biden in his powerful letter to the survivor of Brock Turner:

“I see you. I do not know your name, but I see your unconquerable spirit. You are a warrior — with a solid steel spine. Your story has already changed lives. You have helped change the culture.”

You have changed the culture here at Xavier. Through the collective efforts of students, staff and faculty, we have and will continue to create a culture where sexual violence is not tolerated or condoned; where the norm is to speak up and speak out rather than look the other way; to engage and challenge ourselves and others to disrupt rape culture and raise our collective voices against it.

While these are heartfelt words, they are, in the end, just words. Which is why I wanted to share, via this special edition of the Newswire, a significant new action we are taking to advance our work on this issue: adding a Title IX Program Director position.

It is the first full-time, dedicated position at Xavier to focus on gender-based violence prevention. I am confident that under Chief Title IX Officer Kate Lawson’s leadership and vision, the director will take Xavier’s gender-based violence prevention efforts and culture change to the next level. Our Jesuit mission and values, especially Cura Personalis and being Women and Men for and with Others, demand nothing less.\

Cordially, Michael J. Graham, S.J., President, Xavier University