By Olivia Dauber
Students attending A Day to End Rape Culture, hosted by Anti-Violence Initiatives (AVI), on Tuesday, April 12, were immediately hit with positive energy, despite the sensitive subject matter of the expo-style event.
On the event’s Facebook page, AVI defines rape culture as “an environment in which rape is prevalent and sexual violence is normalized and excused in the media.”
The student-volunteers at the event aimed to change the narrative about sexual assault on college campuses and started the conversation through a series of short, interactive presentations that utilized visuals, narratives and humor to get students thinking seriously about a tough topic.
“The ultimate goal is to switch the idea of resistance from the victim to the perpetrator,” said junior psychology major Rachel Turan, who presented at the event.
The AVI volunteers managed to keep the environment humorous and hopeful, while attendees were educated on topics from the history of rape culture in society to school dress codes and media coverage of sexual assaults.
“A lot of people think that a rape is only considered legit if the victim is physically small and attacked very violently by a stranger,” AVI volunteer and freshman psychology major Gigi Garrity said. “But we’re learning that most rapes actually include people you know, (and) sometimes drugs… It’s so important that we listen to all survivors.”
At a nearby table, senior psychology major Maria Phillips asked students to pick out an article of clothing they would wear from an assortment on the table, ranging from sports gear to Halloween costumes to bikinis. She explained that wearing any item of clothing doesn’t give someone permission to treat you a certain way.
“Mind boggling, I know,” Phillips said.
Representatives from the Title IX office — a division of Student Affairs started at the College in November — were also present. While AVI would provide counseling and emotional support for a student who has been assaulted, the Title IX office would help a student report the crime to authorities if desired and provide academic accommodations, like changing class schedules.
“The victim of a sexual assault has already been through something tragic,” Title IX Coordinator Jordan Draper said. “We aim to help them feel safe on campus.”
Campus Police were also present to show their support and inform students about the services they offer, which include assistance in investigating sexual assault or sexual harassment cases.
“Today is really about starting a conversation,” AVI volunteer and sophomore psychology and women’s and gender studies double major Cat Janis said. “If we have the language to talk about it, we can fight for what we need to change. People know what’s right and wrong, they just don’t always know what to say. Ending rape culture is all about starting a conversation and learning the language.”