By Kayla Rivas
Students shattered the Library Auditorium’s maximum seat capacity to attend Women in Learning and Leadership’s annual Take Back the Night event on April 18. The event offered an open microphone for students and others willing to open up about experiences with sexual assault.
Katie Koestner, the keynote guest speaker, is a date rape activist who speaks out at schools across the country to educate and raise awareness of sexual assault.
A handful of female students took the podium one by one to deliver their speeches as well.
Koestner delivered her message in way that made her audience laugh, but also ponder her serious, thought-provoking questions regarding sexual assault.
Koestner was a freshman at the College of William and Mary when a date at a fancy French restaurant turned into a nightmare — she was raped inside her dorm room later that night.
During her date at the upscale restaurant many years ago, she was asked to drink, and even though she was underage and didn’t want to, she caved.
“People say that’s how he knew,” Koestner said. “They say, ‘He saw you give in to something, he probably figured if he pressured you, you’d give in to more.’”
Koestner challenged the crowd’s perception of pace in a relationship, which she acknowledged was a factor in her sexual assault scenario. Dating can be awkward, but not asking the right questions could have negative consequences.
“Is two months a long time? Not a long time? Two hours, two minutes?” Koestner asked.
Another aspect of dating that the speaker grappled with was how to ask a partner’s attitude toward dating.
“Do you barge in your questionnaire at the outset? Say, ‘Before we go out, I have a few questions about your general disposition on dating.’ I was never gonna be like that. I didn’t even know it was an option,” she said.
One final piece of Koestner’s talk dealt with how movies portray consent.
“One movie has the romantic, sexy background music, and one has the scary, horror movie music,” she said. “Is that the only difference between consent — the background music? And what do you do if you’re speaking at a school for the deaf and they’ve never heard music and you have to explain the difference?”
In opening up about her own personal story, Koestner discouraged the crowd from assigning a gender to aggressors.
“Don’t put a gender on the person — don’t even try,” she said. “Let’s try and go gender neutral.
Koestner ended her contribution to Take Back the Night by saying, “If you are a female and you’re sitting in this room and you’ve never been the aggressive asserter in the relationship, why not? What is holding you back at this point? When will the double standard finally disappear?”
Despite Koestner’s parents’ disapproval of her date rape activism, she continues to inspire others to take action against sexual assault.
“I want there to be intelligent design of what we accomplish tonight,” Koestner said. “I’m hopeful there’s questions I can ask you to challenge you to think more, to do things differently moving forward.”