Sexual Assault Awareness Month

By Layne Wells ‘19
Staff Writer

tw: sexual assault, rape, domestic violence

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, “the month of April has been designated Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) in the United States. The goal of SAAM is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence,” (National Sexual Violence Resource Center). April 2016’s unique theme, “Prevention is Possible” reflects lessons expressed in Claremont’s own Teal Dot training from empathetic conversation strategies to bystander intervention. 

Last April, USA Today published a list entitled, “5 Ways to Participate in Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” which included the following: peer-to-peer discussions; campus demonstrations; watch, listen, and discuss; engage online; don’t stop [raising awareness]. This year, the Claremont Colleges, thanks to college-specific Advocacy groups such as the EmPower Center, participated in all the events on the short-list (and then some) during Consent Week (April 25-29, 2016).

This week was dedicated especially to survivors and their allies. On their event page, the Advocates wrote, “while this week is mainly for survivors of sexual, domestic, and intimate partner violence, we encourage all to take this opportunity to show support for the survivors in your life. This week is inclusive to survivors of all genders and sexual orientations.”

The week began on April 22, 2016, at the EmPOWER Center, which hosted The Clothesline Project for survivors and allies. The Clothesline Project (CLP) is a program started on Cape Cod, MA, in 1990 to address the issue of violence against women. It is a vehicle for women affected by violence to express their emotions by decorating a shirt. They then hang the shirt on a clothesline to be viewed by others as testimony to the problem of violence against women.

The 7C Clothesline Project is co-hosted by Scripps College Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault, Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault, the EmPOWER Center. The event focused group energy on emotional and spiritual restoration of the victims, catering to their needs, as was noted in the Facebook event description. “Keeping with the history of the Clothesline Project, we hope to provide survivors of violence and abuse, as well as their friends and loved ones, a safe way to break the silence about their experiences, and to educate others about the realities of sexual violence in our community. The shirt decorating event provided be a safe, survivor-centered space with Advocates available to provide support.” Shirt decorating supplies were provided, including shirts organized by color depending on the subject reflected, with red, pink, and orange representing rape/sexual assault, gray standing for friends, family, and loved ones, and so on. 

The Pomona Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault hosted an event each day from community forums to film screenings, culminated in the Take Back the Night walk on Friday evening. The march began at the 7C EmPOWER Center at 7:30 and traversed all colleges in the Claremont Consortium. The night ended with the Diva Dance, co-hosted by the Motley. 


5Cs support “Carry that Weight” Movement

On Wednesday Oct. 29, members of each of the 5Cs joined together in the “5C Carry That Weight Together” event uniting in solidarity with other Carry That Weight movements and Emma Sulkowicz, the Columbia senior who has pledged to carry her mattress everywhere she goes until the man she says raped her is expelled.

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Peer victim blaming and judicial injustice

By Evelyn Gonzalez ‘18
Feminism Columnist

Recently, a powerful performance art piece entitled Carry That Weight by Emma Sulkowicz, a visual arts major at Columbia University, captured my attention. In her piece, Emma carried her dorm mattress from class to class in a demonstrated effort to have her rapist removed from campus. Her courage prompted me to think about “rape culture” and its influence in our society.  
Lynn Phillips, creator of the film Flirting with Danger, defines rape culture as “a culture in which dominant cultural ideologies, media images, social practices, and societal institutions support and condone sexual abuse.” The term “rape culture” continues to cause controversy and opposition among those who condemn it and those who deny that it really exists in our society. Choosing to willfully ignore the pervasiveness of rape culture in our society by tolerating the minimization of  the detrimental effects they have on a person creates an unhealthy atmosphere and total lack of awareness that makes it easier to place the culpability on the victim.  
One of the largest issues that arises from rape culture is victim blaming. Instead of punishing the assailants, we publicly scrutinize the victims and stigmatize them. We berate them with questions like “What were you wearing?” “Were you flirting?” “Were you intoxicated that night?” These questions are heavy with the implications that if rape occurred, the victim was at fault. It shifts the responsibility onto them. This often makes it much more difficult for victims to share their experiences with sexual assault because they feel that they are to blame. Victims should not have to defend themselves, and the fact that they do further emphasizes that we live in a society that has normalized the idea of rape.
To live in a rape culture is to be subject to a society that trivializes one’s experiences. This is exemplified by the Steubenville rape case of 2012 in which there was hardly any focus on the victim and instead many news sites lamented the damage of the rapists’ promising futures. This case was a perfect example of rape culture and illustrated how assailants are often forgiven and pitied while the victims are scrutinized and looked at with antipathy and skepticism. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network only four in every one hundred rapes will result in an actual conviction and only three rapists will spend any time in jail. We live in a world in which teaching people to protect themselves against rape becomes easier than instilling a sense of morality and emphasizing the importance of consent. When it becomes easier to deal with the aftereffects rather than first dealing with the prevention of rape, a deeper, underlying problem becomes exposed. Rape culture shows us that the ways in which we collectively think about about rape and sexual assault is problematic and leads to the permeation of increasingly harmful views about sexual violence.
Dismantling our rape culture means shifting the societal treatment of individuals for the better. By recognizing the effects of rape culture and refusing to engage in victim blaming we are creating comfortable, safe spaces for victims of sexual abuse to come forward. As a society, we must always give support and credibility to survivors of sexual assault by avoiding language and questions that prompt victimization and we must hold abusers accountable for their actions.Together we must stand in solidarity with survivors, as did many students at Columbia University who organized “collective carries” to help Emma get to class, and refuse to contribute to this all-too-present system of violence.

Calif. implements affirmative consent law

Two weeks ago, Governor Jerry Brown made an official announcement about SB-967, the State of California’s new “Affirmative Consent” policy, which seeks to address the current high prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses.  The law officially recognizes consent as the clear presence of a “yes” rather than the absence of a “no.”

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Scripps Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault Launch student-operated hotline

Scripps College Advocates launches phone line and support for sexual assault survivors on Feb. 15, 2014.

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