Title Mine: WU students relaunch survivor-centric relationship and sexual violence prevention movement

| Staff Writer

If you take a walk around campus, you’ll likely see a series of dark-blue flyers proclaiming:

“WashU has a consent problem.” 

“WashU has a harassment problem.” 

“End rape culture at WashU.”

“WashU should believe and support survivors.” 

The posters also contain statistics from the 2019 AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct. The survey found that more than one in four undergraduate women and one in 10 undergraduate men experience nonconsensual sexual behavior. 

The flyers were posted by Title Mine, a survivor-centric movement that aims to improve the University’s responses and prevention efforts regarding relationship and sexual violence (RSV). Title Mine relaunched this year after a three-year hiatus. 

First established in 2018, Title Mine comprises a group of students who began organizing in response to several relationship and sexual violence survivors’ op-eds, including Not a Threat,” “My heart sank… because I understand,” “Consider this a warning,” “On staying quiet,” “Survivors are students, too,” “Three weeks later,” “Victim of the ‘gray area,’” and “A system where you can’t win.” 

That April, Title Mine organized an on-campus rally, attended by over 1,000 students, staff members, faculty members, administrators, and local news organizations. There, it listed its demands, which broadly spanned five categories: training, survivor support, transparency, staffing, and accountability. 

The group worked closely with administrators, including former Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori White. Its efforts culminated in the University’s Call to Action plan and the creation of the Title IX Strategic Working Group. With the formation of the group, six additional full-time staff members were added to the Title IX Office, the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention (RSVP) Center, and the Habif Health and Wellness Center. The hires were intended to provide additional counseling services and resources for survivors, enhance trauma-informed training for staff and students, and increase transparency to improve the Title IX reporting process.

Title Mine fizzled out in 2020, presumably due to challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. This fall, sophomore Sonal Churiwal and senior Emma Platt initiated the revival of Title Mine.

The group aims to cultivate a campus community in which survivors are supported in their healing journeys, students can access trauma-informed reporting mechanisms, and the broader community is educated to prevent future acts of relationship and sexual violence

This semester, the group is primarily working to raise awareness of the prevalence of relationship and sexual violence on campus. “Sometimes, talking about this in and of itself is seen as a rebellion because it reflects poorly on the University to have such high rates of relationship and sexual violence,” Churiwal explained. “While it sounds simple to just say, ‘We want to talk about it; we want to create a space to have a dialogue on it,’ [the conversation is] something that isn’t consistently present and welcomed.”

In addition to distributing flyers and spreading awareness on social media, Title Mine is hosting speaker and activist Emma Sulkowicz to discuss her experiences with art, activism, and the movement to end sexual assault on college campuses. Sulkowicz is a Columbia University graduate who was sexually assaulted and met with a lack of institutional support. In an effort to raise awareness, she carried around her mattress in public to represent the burden that survivors often carry. 

The event “Carry Your Weight: Sexual Violence on College Campuses” is co-hosted by the Asian Multicultural Council, the Pride Alliance, the Gender Expansive Multicultural Society, and College Democrats and will take place in Graham Chapel on Nov. 9. “Her performance, which was called ‘Carry That Weight,’ was wildly successful. I think she can speak to how students who are already involved in RSV work may be able to use more creative approaches — as well as hopefully inspire students who are not as involved to join the cause,” Churiwal said.

In addition to harm and accountability processes, Title Mine wants to promote the empowerment of survivors. “We are looking forward to having spaces where survivors can share their stories,” Churiwal said, “and hope to offer students creative spaces to talk about RSV, healing, and support — and frame their experiences in ways they want to so they aren’t represented only by their trauma.” 

Churiwal and Platt felt that an intersectional group with both graduate and undergraduate student participation that focuses on public advocacy around relationship and sexual violence is missing from campus.

Churiwal is currently the SU Senate Diversity & Inclusion Committee Chair, and Platt previously served as SU’s Vice President of Engagement and as the Senate Diversity and Inclusion Committee Chair. Their leadership experiences and their frustrations with bureaucracy, both within SU and the University, inspired them to relaunch Title Mine.  

Churiwal started doing relationship and sexual violence response and prevention work last semester in SU to reinstate the Title IX Advisory Committee. “In my conversations with [Dr. Tonya Edmond, Chair of the Title IX Advisory Committee], we talked about what the committee would push for. I started talking to different student groups, survivors, etc. and just realized that there is such a large need for so much advocacy work,” she explained. 

“It is exhausting and frustrating for me to continuously have to convince and explain to other students in Student Union why we [should demand that] basic student needs and wants be met. They’re supposed to be on our side,” Churiwal said. “It’s just so much more empowering and comfortable to work with people in Title Mine…we have disagreements, but I know that everyone involved in the team has the same overarching vision.”

In addition to bureaucracy challenges, there is a continuous cycle of responses to demands regarding relationship and sexual violence. The University has created task forces or committees to address this issue, including the Task Force on Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence (2014-2015), the Title IX Strategic Working Group (2018-2019), the WashU Medicine Executive Faculty Task Force on Climate & Culture (2023), and the Danforth Task Force on Climate and Culture (2023). “The fact that they’ve needed to create task force after task force on this shows that they’re not sufficiently solving the problem,” Platt said. 

“Just because you have the structure, [that] doesn’t mean you’re utilizing it or utilizing it appropriately,” Platt added. She explained that the immense number of structures and systems can be confusing to students. Beyond relationship and sexual violence awareness, Platt hopes to educate the community about resources available to them. “[We want to tell students that] this is the process, and this is what you should expect from it — if you’re not getting that, then the University is failing you. It’s not your fault. You’re not doing anything wrong,” she said. 

Churiwal and Platt serve as Core Team Chairs of Title Mine, which is structured as a non-hierarchical organization. The Core Team includes 15 to 20 undergraduate and graduate students in committees focused on public relations, programming, community collaborations, and policy development. 

Isabella Gomes, a third-year medical student who is part of the public relations team, explained the importance of undergraduate-graduate student partnerships. “Graduate students are often separated from the undergraduate campus that has so many interesting conversations about things that really affect any sort of student. Because we’re often left out of that conversation but still deal with those things, I’ve been very appreciative of this inclusion [in Title Mine],” Gomes said. “It really behooves everyone to…acknowledge the importance of talking about things like campus assaults or power dynamics in work situations and educational circumstances.”

Title Mine is a movement that centers survivors, but Platt and Churiwal added that they want to promote solidarity more broadly. In order to continue centering survivors without burdening them, Platt and Churiwal hope that allies can take on support efforts, especially regarding administrative conversations. “If a student, as a survivor, has gone to the Title IX Office to talk about their case, then it can be very uncomfortable to then talk to those exact same staff in more of an administrative relationship. We really hope to see — through Title Mine — survivors and allies coming together,” Churiwal explained.

Title Mine hopes to have a productive relationship with other students, organizations, and administrators to create safe spaces for survivors, offer culturally diverse and queer therapists, and ensure that staff and faculty can support survivors with appropriate accommodations. While the act of students advocating for themselves often leads to tension with administrators, “the goal is to have a working relationship with them,” Platt said. “We’re also not just willing to give up half of our policy demands if they say no the first time.”

“I always say, ‘I want to be proud of my institution. I want to proclaim that I’m a WashU student.’ In order to do that, I have to believe in what the institution does,” Gomes added. “I want to believe that I’m a part of an institution that cares about its students — not just their education, but their well-being and their safety. In order to do that, [WashU has] to support and act on policies that protect students.”

“Title IX is a focus, but it’s bigger than Title IX,” Platt said. “It should matter to you — regardless of whether you know someone who has been impacted, regardless of whether you have any personal experience.”


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