Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Programming Style!

I just finished up the last of my two programs for Sexual Assault Awareness Month–this one on men and gendered violence. It was exciting, as these things go, because we had a guest speaker and people I didn’t tell to show up also came. Educational programming will cause you to lower your standards real quick-like.

The first program involved our director of RES Life and focused on the Oxford College implementation of the Emory University assault policy. It was mostly attended by women, which was expected but always a little frustrating–women are most likely to be pressing charges under conduct, but men need to know what the policy covers in case their conduct is questionable or in case they are assaulted.

That being said, I was glad people came, and I do think it focused on something that more schools our size need to focus on–making sure students know the details of the policy and the process for going forward under school conduct board should the survivor choose to do so. Of course, as the speaker (my boss’s boss, for full disclosure) is a school employee who runs the process, she was more cheerful than I think the situation at our school deserves; sometimes it felt like valid student concerns (like the lack of minimum sentences for conduct violations, or concerns about the massive underreporting at Oxford) were being ignored, but small, significant changes are being made and that is at least something better than what we started with.

The second program involved an area director (my boss’s boss, but at the Atlanta campus) coming down to speak with us about masculinity in the media and men’s role in preventing rape. Boys who I didn’t know and who I think are on sports teams came, and that was exciting even if most of them bailed during the speaker’s presentation. Small steps!

The presentation itself was a little awkward, given the audience–it was too theoretical for the guys (who would have benefited from cutting straight to the bystander intervention techniques as a way to empower men to be something other than perpetrators) and repetitive for the girls and male members of Pride (who already know about rape culture and don’t need the referesher).

On the whole, though, the presentation was good and it was great to have a straight male from outside the Oxford community come in to talk about these issues. Mostly when people are presenting, it’s women and occasionally queer men, and that can make it hard to do outreach to straight men (who are of course who you’re trying to reach). There were some really great points about ad analysis à la Sociological Images in the presentation, and I think teaching media awareness is one of the easiest ways to encourage people to think about rape culture as a pervasive part of American culture. So that was good!

I don’t know if these two programs made a difference for anyone. It’s a smaller level of outreach and attendance than these events get at the Atlanta campus, where they have a full week dedicated to assault prevention. That bums me out when I think about it. However, two events is two more than we had last year. People came. Connections were made among attendees and our truly, amazingly awesome health educator in Student Health Services. As I’ve said before, when I get bummed out I have to remind myself that progress, however slow, is still progress.

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