Students, staff discuss effects of sexual assault

In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Sigma Pi fraternity hosted a forum entitled, “Sexual Assault: It’s on our campus … What are you doing about it?” Last Thursday night, this program concluded Greek Sexual Assault Awareness Week.

Although not well-attended, the forum had a relaxed atmosphere in which everyone was encouraged to participate and discuss issues of sexual assault affecting both males and females.

To open discussion, Gabe Alonso, event organizer, asked, “What is a woman’s role in breaking down the barriers involving sexual assault?”

Panelist Elizabeth Spohr, Wolfe Hall residence director and adjunct faculty member of the women’s and gender studies department, answered that young feminists have allowed men to take part in the feminist movement.

She said if changes are made in the everyday lives of both males and females, then the community will undoubtedly benefit from it.

Other topics covered included how men can work to change the stereotype of being perpetrators and what approaches can be taken to raise awareness of sexual assault both on and off college campuses.

On-campus security was another question audience members raised. Panelist Det. Sgt. James Lopez of Campus Police said the College’s campus is safer than most other campuses because awareness of sexual assault is now in the open and victims are encouraged to come forward.

Other speakers on the panel in Forcina Hall were Jackie Deitch-Stackhouse, director of the Office of Anti-Violence Initiatives, who served as the moderator; Sean Collier, junior finance major and White Ribbon Campaign member; Edie Camel, director of public education and research at the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault; James Lopez, member of the sexual assault taskforce and Womanspace.

Participating in the discussion from the audience, Michael Jaeger, sophomore general business major, said that the forum “educated everyone of how there is a grey area to sexual assault and how it would be beneficial for both men and women to learn about this gray area so they can report these crimes to the appropriate authorities.”

Alonso said he believes change starts on a personal level. “As long as men and women have the courage to step out of the roles they’ve been placed into by our culture, we will begin to break down so many barriers that afflict us as humans, not genders.”

Alonso said he considered Greek Sexual Assault Awareness Week a huge success and hopes others were able to benefit from it.

Some of the other sexual awareness events that were part of the week included a flag football tournament and Rutgers University’s SCREAM (Students Challenging Reality and Educating Against Myths) Theatre.

According to the SCREAM Theater Web site, SCREAM Theater is a peer educational, interactive theater program that educates groups and initiates dialogue about issues of interpersonal violence including sexual assault, dating violence, same-sex violence, stalking, bullying and peer harassment.

Created and acted by undergraduate students from Rutgers, the skits are developed for specific audiences including high school students, college students, community groups, social service agencies and law enforcement. SCREAM Theater performs nationwide.

When asked why he decided to organize the week of events, Alonso said his experiences as a Community Adviser in Travers Hall gave him the inspiration.

“I saw the aftermath of the types of environment Greeks inherently foster (at parties),” he said. “I wanted to do something to change those stigmas and break down the barriers. We are leaders and should be viewed only as such.”