Tara Misra, CC’s new Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, talks about how she came to work at the college, being a confidential resource for the community, Halloween, and pumpkin-flavored everything.
With Brooks Fleet, Style Editor
Where are you from?
I grew up in suburban Massachusetts, but spent about 10 years in Albuquerque, NM, where I fell in love with the Mountain West.
How did you get to Colorado College?
I saw the SARC position announcement on a listserv for violence prevention professionals in higher education while doing similar work at the University of Georgia. I immediately knew that I had to apply; CC attracts bright and dynamic students, and I was very attracted to the idea of working at a liberal arts college. Also, one of my cousins graduated from CC in 2000 and had a great experience here.
How do you like it so far?
I feel very grateful and fortunate to be part of the CC community. Students and colleagues have been so welcoming and willing to engage on these issues. There is also much to look forward to, which is exciting.
What does it mean to be a sexual assault response coordinator?
Although the title suggests a very specific function, my role on campus is pretty broad. I am a confidential resource for students, faculty, and staff. I provide support to individuals that are impacted by sexual assault, intimate partner violence, stalking, and bias incidents. Support can include escorting someone to the emergency room, exploring options for reporting, communicating with professors on a student’s behalf, learning how to talk to a friend you are concerned about, or connecting students with other resources on campus and in the community. However, it is not enough to respond to violence when it occurs, but also to prevent it. A huge part of that is emphasizing what healthy relationships and healthy sexuality look like. I am available to talk about contraception, STI (sexually transmitted infection) prevention, communication, jealousy, finding balance—really any relationship concern that a student would like to discuss. There are many mixed messages about what a healthy relationship looks like. Those role models can be scarce. Also, free condoms are available in my office.
Is CC a lot different from previous schools you have worked with?
Very different. I have primarily worked with college students at very large public universities. I was very involved in peer health education at the University of Massachusetts and began to focus on healthy relationships in my graduate program at the University of New Mexico. I moved to Athens, Ga. after grad school to work in violence prevention and advocacy at UGA. It was an intense education to be working on such a large campus (34,000). CC has been a refreshing change. I particularly appreciate the more intimate feeling on campus.
How did you become interested in sexual assault response and counseling?
I began my career as a sexual health educator when I was an undergraduate focused on HIV prevention and college students. As I progressed in public health, there were more opportunities to work with other populations, like sex workers or injection drug users. Being a resource for people navigating crisis situations and talking about “sensitive” topics became common threads in much of my public health work. By the time I finished grad school, I knew that I wanted to continue working with college populations and violence prevention has been a critical campus issue for decades. Also, many people in my own life have been impacted by sexual or intimate partner violence, and I am inspired by their courage.
What do you want students to know about preventing sexual assault on campus?
It is important for students to recognize that we all play a role in preventing sexual violence. Violence really thrives in silence, which is why conversations about these issues are so important. This is not a “woman’s issue”. Sexual violence impacts all of us. We all bear a responsibility to each other to maintain a climate where people are treated with respect. Nobody deserves to be victimized. Get involved if you believe someone is at risk. If you see a person in trouble at a party or a friend using force or pressuring another person, speak up. More information about being an active bystander is available through the BADASS program, offered through SOSS (Student Organization for Sexual Safety).
What are you going to be for Halloween?
I am going to be on-call.
What do you think about the influx of pumpkin-flavored foods?
I think it is an essential part of the season. Pumpkin puree is actually a great source of potassium, antioxidants, and fiber, so it can be a healthy addition to recipes.
If you could vacation anywhere in the world where would you go?
I would do a tour of Spain, Morocco, and Tunisia.