Sex Week panel: In the Dark

Madison Cooper, Contributing Writer

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On Feb. 10, Speak UP held a student panel discussing sexual violence and its relationship to Greek life in Trout Auditorium. The event allowed Speak UP members to submit questions regarding sexual violence on campus to the volunteer organizational panelists, before opening up questions to the audience. The panel consisted of Speak UP members Alisa Hardy ’20, Jacob Feuerstein ’22, Alex Akoundi ’21, Virginia Flagler ’20, and Katie Wisotsky ’20.

Most of the questions pertained to Greek life and the hookup culture on campus while discussing the health and safety of the campus environment.

“I think if you look at where the majority of where sexual assault and sexual violence happens, it’s probably related to party culture and Greek life on campus. So, I think as is, it’s not contributing to a healthier environment,” Feuerstein said.

While there are systems in place to try to prevent sexual assault and spread awareness, it’s still a prevalent occurrence on campus.

The Speak UP panelists advised that the simplest thing one can do to prevent sexual assault on campus and fight rape culture is, in general, simply to call out inappropriate behavior when they see it. “Where there should be this sense of personal responsibility for the people around them, there’s not because you’re entering a party scene. I don’t know how to make it better, but I think that right now it’s a little twisted and a little backward,” said Flagler.

This includes friend groups and organizations not treating perpetrators any differently after finding out they’ve committed acts of sexual assault. Wisotsky said, “There’s just a major problem with not believing survivors, and also not holding perpetrators accountable for their actions. If you don’t hold your friends who are perpetrators accountable, then who will?”

A student in the audience asked about the level of transparency which the University should maintain with its investigations, considering that a perpetrator who is still walking the campus while a trial is pending is a danger to others. Akoundi said, “If the University has any reasonable sense that a perpetrator’s going to act again, then it should probably be transparent because people’s safety should be taken into account.”

Regarding next steps, many of the panelists indicated that they do not know how to create a significant change. During closing statements, Feuerstein thanked the audience for coming out before saying, “I also just wanted to say, you know, how disappointed I am that we’re not larger. I texted it in so many group chats and connected with hundreds of people, probably, about this event, but we ended up with really kind of sparse attendance, and I’m frightened by that.”

When asked how the talk went, Mary Collier ’21 said, “I think it went okay, but I don’t know if much will change from it, because it seemed like the people who showed up are the people who already care, or who are already taking actions to make this campus a safer, better place, and those who are contributing to the problem were not involved with this conversation at all. I don’t know if this conversation will get back to them, so I’m not sure if it will be really helpful in the long run.”

“I know people care about these issues, but the question becomes are they going to interrupt their daily routines – are they going to do something about it?” Flagler said.

“I don’t know when my peers say enough is enough. I’m so beyond disturbed and upset, and I’m doing something about it,” Akoundi said. They all agreed that the University does not have a “callout culture” and that’s part of the problem.

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