By: Shannon McMullen/Staff Writer
Students had the opportunity to have their voice heard on how to combat sexual assault, thanks to the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies.
On Wednesday, Apr. 25, ten presentations were given in which groups of students proposed hypothetical programs that would educate others on sexual assault on campus. The event took place in PCA 150 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. and brought in a full house of both students and administrators.
The presenters were students of the Campus Sexual Assault Course, taught by Victoria Burns, an instructor in the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies.
Burns said she had been planning the class for a while now and this semester was the first time the curriculum was offered.
Instead of the students having final exams, their presentations were their final exam. Burns said they had to take all the information they learned in class and put it into a plan to improve awareness on the subject.
The Orientation Consent Workshop, a concept made by the first group of presenters, started with the basics about what consent means.
The group said that a major goal of their workshop is to help students move away from the idea that consent is awkward, taboo, or not necessary, and to make people comfortable talking to their partner about that they want from sex.
They also discussed how to confirm consent and how it is not just asked for once and never again. The group said communication has to occur not just before sex, but throughout it as well.
Another group proposed a radio show called “The Lush Hour” that would talk about healthy sex, rape culture, sexual assault, and provide information on the reporting process on campus and campus resources.
Students would feel comfortable asking questions through this relaxed medium, the group said, and the radio show would answer with honest information.
The group said that this type of program would be relatable to university students as it takes off the pressure of a class or workshop while maintaining the seriousness of the topic through conversation.
The #KnowTheFlags program would actively engage with students by putting up red flags in certain locations around campus like around Greek housing or around the Women’s Center.
The group said they wanted students to feel empowered to speak up when they saw the flags and be a part of the movement. The group wanted Panthers who see the flags to take pictures and upload them to social media to promote sexual assault awareness. Their plan was to give t-shirts to students and faculty who participate by posting pictures.
The group said that they spoke to Greek life councils, as well as the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Club, and they said they were supportive of the campaign.
The Queering Sexual Assault Prevention, another proposed program, would be inclusive of LGTBQA identified students, compared to current sexual assault prevention programs which are not as inclusive as they could be, as LGBTQA experiences of assault often aren’t recognized, according to the group that proposed the program.
The group told the story of a transgender student whose partner was withholding hormone medication as a form of sexual coercion.
Burns said that she found the group of students who presented were really above average on their knowledge and passion on the topic.
Three of the students were already peer educators, Burns said, so they educate the entire university on this topic anyway. She said that a few groups were really planning on going through with their proposals, rather than leaving it as a graded assignment.
Aaliyah Ramos, a junior majoring in psychology, said that because she did this presentation and took this course taught by Burns, she has decided to pursue a double major in psychology and women’s and gender studies.
“This is a topic that still needs so much attention and desperately needs to be brought up in conversations to be discussed more openly if we ever want anything to change for the better. For that reason, I intend on discussing it more in the future to everyone,” Ramos said.
Maria Reinoso, a junior majoring in psychology, said her group “The Power of Being Informed: Climate Survey” hit some roadblocks when they were putting the presentation together. It took all semester to finish, and they had to contact a lot of different departments to ensure they had their support should their idea become a real thing.
“We’d love to have the support of the university to make it an actual program. We truly believe it’s important and will make a positive difference in our campus,” Reinoso said.
She said she was proud of what her class had accomplished and was greatful the class gave her the opportunity to do the presentation.
“I want to make sure I leave this world better than I found it and I strive to make change in the best way I can,” she said.
Burns said she couldn’t imagine the presentations going any better, and that she was humbled and proud.
“To have the students [go through] this experience and feel like ‘I am heard here and I have the power to change things,’ I think it can be life-changing for them,” Burns said.
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash