Introducing the Coalition for Sexual Justice


Photo credit: Genevieve Humphreys

Photo by Genevieve Humphreys

The Coalition for Respect is back with a new name and a new focus on transparency. After a hiatus to plan for the relaunch last semester following low student involvement in the past two years of the Coalition, the Coalition for Respect has rebranded as the Coalition for Sexual Justice.

The Coalition held their first meeting under their new name on Feb. 27, where they discussed future projects and initiatives of the group. The meeting was attended by around 20 students.

After evaluating the purpose and actions of the organization, the Coalition’s first step in planning for their public relaunch was the name change. The new name came up during a brainstorm session at their meeting on Nov. 28.

“The new name almost shifts the narrative from we’re a coalition that just tries to prevent something to also being a coalition that promotes something. ‘Coalition for Respect’ is obviously trying to promote the idea of respect, but it seemed like the whole thing was just focused on preventing sexual assault. I really like Coalition for Sexual Justice because we’ll also promote the idea of sexual fairness, which encompasses a lot of other things,” said sophomore Gemma Smith, outreach chair for the Coalition. “It also has a more straight to the point name. I feel like Coalition for Respect is very general. Sexual justice is very much like you hear it and you know exactly what we’re fighting for.”

David Tuttle, associate vice president for Student Life and dean of students, contacted the Student Government Association (SGA) last fall when student involvement in the Coalition was low. Cecelia Turkewitz, the former chief-of-staff on SGA and now a member of the Coalition’s leadership board, offered her ideas to help.

“I volunteered because this is an issue that I’m really passionate about and something that I think Trinity and all universities in general can do a lot better at, [concerning] promoting healthy relationships and being transparent about their sexual assault process and reporting sexual [assault]. I was really interested to help with that,” Turkewitz said.

Tuttle took a step down from his involvement with the Coalition. Turkewitz and seniors Megan Allen and Hannah Braley helped reorganize the Coalition during this transition. Sheryl Tynes, vice president for Student Life, stepped in for Tuttle. Tynes will continue to offer her support to the Coalition in terms of resources and advice, but the Coalition will be chiefly student-led.

“I have always said that this is a conversation that’s long overdue, but we’re not leading a Trinity student life, so the students really need to take the lead on it,” Tynes said. “It doesn’t make sense for us to lead something if you all aren’t involved in it, so all along from the very beginning this was a student-led effort.”

The all-female leadership panel also crafted a new mission statement that reads, “We are a collective of Trinity students, faculty, staff and community members who work to promote sexual justice through education and advocacy. Sexual Justice encompasses ending sexual assault and domestic violence, promoting sexual health and safety and providing survivor support through campus-wide accountability. Through diverse and inclusive dialogue, we aim to create a campus climate that ensures sexual justice.”

Faculty involved with the Coalition pushed for the creation of the mission statement but did not offer input outside of that.

“I think it’s really important that this is a student organization, that this is coming from students and that students are empowered on the issue of sexual assault and abuse on campus. We wanted that statement to come out of their own discussions and their own priorities,” said Sarah Erickson, associate professor of communication.

The changes to the Coalition were made with the hope that they will last into the future.

“I’m hoping that we establish ourselves as a bigger voice on campus. Right now, it’s getting organized, and our board of leaders is putting a lot of work into it, but I still don’t feel like its really recognized as a big presence or group on campus, so I’m hoping that that will change,” Smith said.

For Women’s History Month in March, the Coalition for Sexual Justice and the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies are both holding multiple events in support of women, including the Clothesline Project. Each are hosting separate events as well as a few partnered ones. Along with attending these events, Turkewitz believes there are other ways of showing support.

“I’m really excited for everything that is happening. I think that the most important thing is that nobody talks about this right now, and it needs to be a regular discussion,” Turkewitz said.

The Coalition will be tabling in the Coates Student Center twice a week throughout March.