he F-Word: A contemporary feminist critique
Sexual Assault Awareness Month
Published: Thursday, April 12, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 12, 2012 13:04
As a violence prevention educator, I am dedicated to preventing sexual assault on NDSU’s campus. April is an especially important time for this topic because it is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
The NDSU Sexual Assault Prevention Program is sponsoring a variety of events this month to raise awareness about sexual assault. First of all, The Clothesline Project will be on exhibit in the Memorial Union Gallery until April 13 and will be bearing witness to violence against women.
On April 22 at 7 p.m. Kate Bornstein will present “Gender Outlaws: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us” which will be located in the Great Ballroom of the Memorial Union.
In addition, the screening of a documentary film entitled “It Was Rape” by Jennifer Baumgardner, a world-renowned feminist, will take place on April 27 at 3:30 p.m., and it is something I’m really excited about.
Many people are aware of sexual assault, but don’t know what they can do to prevent it from happening. The Violence Prevention Educators have shirts with nine prevention tips that I will highlight to raise awareness and prevent sexual assault on NDSU’s campus.
First of all, “seek enthusiastic consent from your partner every time and at every step in every sexual relationship.” Imagine a world where verbal consent was sought and received in every sexual encounter by both parties involved. I think that sounds like a pretty wonderful place.
Second, “look inward. Be brave. Take some time to think about your own relationships and whether you always give and receive respect. Don’t be afraid to look within and think about how you can be and do better in any relationship.”
The next tip is important in regards to trusting oneself. “Listen to and trust your own instincts. Don’t ignore a gut feeling that a situation seems off or unsafe. Follow your intuition and remove yourself and your friends from it.”
“Look after your friends. Check in with each other regularly when you are out and make sure everyone is having a safe fun time.” It is possible to have fun and be safe at the same time. Making sure you leave a get-together with the same people you arrived with is important. It’s not babysitting; it’s called being a friend.
“Be a responsible bystander. If you notice a stranger in a situation that seems uncomfortable or like it could lead to danger, don’t ignore it. Intervene at a level that feels right to you.” This is certainly a difficult tip, but we all need to trust our instincts and not fear intervening. I am much more fearful of what will happen if I don’t intervene.
The next tip is one that I find myself repeating to friends often. “Stop rape jokes. Rape jokes minimize and normalize sexual violence. Identify these jokes for what they are and don’t perpetuate them.” Oh, and they aren’t funny at all. Hearing a rape joke as a person who has been sexually assaulted can be very traumatic so it’s important to remember that words can impact and hurt others even when we’re only joking.
“Support survivors. Believe and be there for your friends and classmates when they disclose a sexual assault. Your support can make an incredible difference.” A tip that goes along with this is to reduce victim blaming. Victim blaming occurs when a victim is blamed for something that happened to them. I’ve heard people take part in victim blaming in regards to sexual assault by saying, “Well why was she even at that party?” “Did you see what she was wearing?” and even, “Women are responsible for what happens to them after they choose to get intoxicated.”
All of these examples imply that the victim is responsible for the sexual assault and could have or should have prevented it. Victim blaming is counterproductive and usually very hurtful for the victim.
The next tip carries a very positive message. “Speak out. When homophobia, sexist, racist or other hateful comments are made don’t be silent. Be a voice for inclusiveness, equality and peace.”
The last tip is to “Continue to educate yourself and challenge yourself to look at the issue of sexual violence from different perspectives. Read books. Attend programs. Seek deeper understanding with an open mind.”
I’d also like to make a point that the NDSU Sexual Assault Resources and Advocacy (SARA) helpline is now open. Volunteers at the SARA helpline are available 24/7 to listen, answer questions and provide support.
This helpline, along with the Violence Prevention Educators program, are both dedicated to preventing sexual assault on NDSU’s campus and being there for victims; but each of these tips should be used by each NDSU student in the hopes of someday ending sexual assault at NDSU altogether.