I am often asked a version of this question: What can be done to end sexual violence?
Of course, the simplest answer is for each person (yes, that includes each person reading this) to behave in ways that are not sexually violent, that is, to seek consent within all intimate interactions. This may require learning what consent is, how it works, and the role of alcohol in obscuring consent. It may require an open, honest conversation with your partner or reflection on why and how you choose to engage in intimate behaviors.
There’s a larger question here as well, a question of culture and environment. What do we do (or omit doing) that creates a culture that actively promotes or passively allows sexual violence to happen? Answers to this question (there’s lots!) can serve as a springboard for action. Do we blame victims (“Why was she wearing that, and so late at night?”)? Do we believe that alcohol eliminates responsibility (“But they were both drinking.”)? Do we fail to question perpetration (Not asking “Why did s/he assume the other wanted this?”)? Tomorrow (4/9/13) from 12:30p.m. to 1:30p.m. in the Octavia Room, we’ll explore with Dr. Charles Corprew the question of what it means to be masculine in the college campus environment.
Teal is the color of sexual assault awareness. Increasing our self-awareness as well as awareness within our communities can bring healing. Below are action steps toward standing for an environment of sexual non-violence. Whether you pick one of these or come up with your own, commit to finding one way to bring “teal” into your life!
- Wear a “Teal Heals” button one day this week.
- Explain what your Teal Heals button means to a friend.
- Understand that alcohol impairs one’s ability to legally give consent.
- Challenge victim blaming language when I hear it.
- Avoid using “rape” as a slang or humorous term.
- Educate myself about power based personal violence.
- Talk to one male friend about the importance of involving men in prevention.
- Talk to one female friend about the importance of involving women in prevention.
- Attend Take Back the Night planning meetings (begin in September 2013).
- Participate in Take Back the Night in fall 2013.
- Integrate information about power-based personal violence into one class discussion.
- Volunteer at a local shelter serving victims of domestic violence.
- Write a letter to the editor of the Maroon with your reflections on the importance of addressing interpersonal violence.
- Discuss with friends a media portrayal glamorizing sexual violence and why this is disturbing to you.
- Read about the Advocacy Initiative on the UCC’s webpage.
- Commit to attending an Advocacy Initiative training.
- Speak to a student organization leader about ways your group can promote non-violence. Organizational involvement can be part of reducing a culture of sexual violence.
- Write a blog about your interest in having a less sexually violence community and submit to the UCC for posting.
- Tell someone you know that too many students will be victims of violence and you want to reduce it.
- Put “ending gender based violence” on your Facebook page “what’s on your mind” window.
- Focus one course paper or project on advocating an end to sexual violence.
- Understand that “No” means “No.”
- Share statistics with my friends about sexual violence.
- Seek professional help if I suspect that my friend has been drugged (e.g., LUPD/TEMS, a hospital).
- Ask someone who appears upset if they would like to talk.
- Remember that survivors deserve to be trusted, not doubted.
- Talk to my friends about what defines consent.
- Account for the people I came with to a party before I leave or change locations.
- Encourage a friend to call the University Counseling Center (504) 865-3835 if I suspect a friend may have been sexually assaulted.
- Remember that every woman is someone’s daughter.
- Act from the belief that every person has inherent worth and dignity.
- Understand that being “masculine” does not mean being violent toward my intimate partner.
- Validate my friends by trusting their experience.
- Understand that wholeness includes mind, body and spirit and that sexual violence threatens each of these.
- Challenge the “Hook Up Culture.”
-Brooks Zitzmann, LMSW
University Counseling Center