On Conference Excitement

Attendees at RespectCon 2013

This was an exciting week. Not in the way that last week was trip-to-Texas exciting. And emotionally different than the previous weekend’s trampolining exciting. But exciting nonetheless!

Most of that derived from the fact that RespectCon, the conference on sexual assault prevention/response that I helped organize, happened this past Friday. Like, actually happened. People came! Presentations were made! Cameron and I got to have a wonderful discussion about armadillos and leprosy! There was a hashtag!

So that was very nice. I think it went well. If it didn’t, then I know a lot of very polite, very convincing liars, which is emotionally equivalent.

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On Sexual Assault and Capital F Feelings

Today, I had a frustrating discussion about sexual assault.

It started out relatively well. While driving somewhere, I was riffing with a friend about the fact that Senegal—where I will be going soon—has something of a street harassment problem. We joked that this had something to do with the country’s French colonial past. (Paris has a by all accounts more physically agressive street harassment culture.)

I joked that I was going to try to mimic the Senegalese response, which I find amusingly direct—a few months ago, I spoke to a graduate student who does research there and she noted that Senegalese women often go with a blunt “Nah, you’re ugly” in response to marriage proposals.

There is of course the more evasive route suggested by my guidebook, which is to murmur “maybe next time” in Wolof, which is apparently a culturally-accepted way to brush someone off politely. I said that in reality I would probably use this response, since I’m not that confrontational. (I could also go with the American response of pretending to understand neither French or Wolof and wandering blankly past.)

Another passenger in the car, who was a friend of my friend and who I had just met, said, “You don’t want to give them false hope or make them angry. That’s a good way to get raped.”

I responded that statistically, that’s untrue. Most sexual assaults involve alcohol and disorientation. He said he disagreed. I gave up and another passenger in the car changed the subject.

But seriously? I am so tired of having to pretend that random boys get an input on the likelihood of someone trying to assault me by virtue of their Having Feelings on the issue.

Are you Senegalese? No.

Have you been to Senegal? No.

Is the threat of sexual assault something that you have to negotiate in your daily existence on a college campus? No.

So no, your feelings about my likelihood of suffering a violent crime in a Scary Foreign Country with Scary Dark Men do not, in fact, get to be treated as more than the baseless, victim-blaming bullshit they are while I am giving you a ride in my car.

In fact, here is a comprehensive list of ways to increase your likelihood of “getting raped.”

  1. Be around a rapist when he decides to rape you.

There we go.

But, since we’re talking about Feelings, here are mine on how to increase your likelihood of getting punched.

  1. Be the sort of clueless asshole who brings up rape in the car of someone who’s driving you.
  2. Refuse to back down.
  3. Refuse to deal in things like “facts” or “lived experiences.”

See, sharing our Feelings can be super productive. I’m glad we had this talk.

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. Continue reading

People Can Be Horrible (Also: Arrowheads!)

First off, new post at OpenStudy. Ten points to online learning!

Secondly: I spent most of this weekend at the Safe Society Zone‘s Sexual Assault in Our Schools conference. It was at times inspiring, at times depressing, and consistently heartbreaking because it is so, so infuriating that people think that it is okay to ever do that to anyone. And not even like it’s a small group of people–1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted. (Even better, 1 in 4 women in the military will be assaulted while they are in the military. And 96% of those assaults are committed by people who wear the same uniform.)

I know people who have been assaulted. They are the most amazing, most wonderful people and it makes me want to cut the asshole who did that to them because they do not have the right. It takes something that can be so, so good and it turns it awful and it hurts people and it fucks them up and they did nothing to deserve it.

So, those people can go to hell.

But it wasn’t all horrendously depressing. I learned about concrete actions I can take to help fix that. (Look out for changes in Oxford’s amnesty policy to accommodate sexual assault and an attempt to get No Zebras, No Excuses screened at frosh orientation next year.) I met the people at Central Michigan University, who have the most amazing peer advocate program. There are men and they are allies; there are women and they are strong. The entire program is well-run and victim-sensitive and just so very, very good. That doesn’t change the fact that I wish it didn’t have to exist.

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