Gettysburg College 2017 Student Solidarity Rally: Call to Action Against Sexual Violence

On Wednesday, March 1st, 2017, SASA participated in the first Gettysburg College Student Solidarity Rally. This rally was created by a group of students who felt we as a campus needed a space to give students and faculty the opportunity to share their perspectives, give them a voice, and empower them to combat issues important to them in today’s political climate. More information about the Rally can be found at the Gettysburgian: http://gettysburgian.com/2017/02/solidarity-rally-explores-larger-world-outside-gettysburg-college/

In the section entitled “Title IX Imperiled,” SASA made a call to action to the campus community imploring them to get more involved in activism to combat sexual violence. You can read our call to action below. Please feel free to share this with your friends, family, co-workers, and organizations!

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            Hello everyone, and welcome. We are all so happy that you have come to this rally to show support and solidarity for your peers and campus. My name is Kristina Chamberlin. I am a senior psychology major here at Gettysburg College. I am co-president of the student-run campus organization, Students Against Sexual Assault. SASA began in 2011 as a change-making project for WGS 120, and has evolved into a full-fledged campus movement against sexual violence. We host a variety of events to educate our campus about issues of sexual and domestic violence, intimate relationships, safe sex practices, harassment, consent, and bystander intervention. Each fall, we head the 14 Days to End Sexual Violence, a campaign dedicated to two weeks of education, demonstrations, activities, speakers, displays, movies, booths, and more focusing on these issues. We hope that by engaging our peers in education and advocacy, we can make an impact on sexually- and relationship-based issues both at Gettysburg College and in our surrounding communities. Before we get started, I would like to encourage you to attend our next meeting on Thursday, March 9th, in the Women’s and LGBTQA Resource Center at 7:00pm. Attendance, especially for underclassmen, has not been optimal, and it is imperative that more students get involved so that our organization can continue to thrive in future years. We encourage you to mark your calendars and we hope to see you there.

The current state of our society feels grim and foreboding for targets and survivors of sexually- and relationship-based violence and harassment. Sexual assault is still a pervasive problem on college campuses; according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, on average, one in five women and one in sixteen men are sexually assaulted while in college. More than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do no report the assault. Very little attention is being dedicated to issues of intersectionality; today, little is addressed regarding those with disabilities, those who are LGBTQ, or those of various races and ethnic backgrounds. And, sadly, the political climate does not feel as though it will advocate for these potential and current victims of sexual violence and harassment.

Our society promotes complacency and tolerance for sexually based offenses. Brock Turner, a student at Stanford University, served just 3 months in prison for raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. Just recently, Casey Affleck, a man accused of sexual harassment by numerous women, was awarded an Oscar for Best Actor. Donald Trump, a man who has claimed you can just grab women “by the pussy” and has been accused by numerous victims of sexual assault, has been elected to the highest position in our country: the President of the United States of America. These are just a few examples highlighting the pervasive and damaging nature of rape culture in America.

While the state of affairs can be frightening and dangerous, we at Gettysburg College can and do make efforts to take down these norms, promote support and protection of survivors, and engage in prevention practices with the intention of eliminating sexual assault in our communities. As Jennifer McCary has described, the Title IX office of Gettysburg College has received a new grant from the Department of Justice, for which we have hired a grant coordinator and confidential victims advocate to better support initiatives and survivors on our campus. In addition, the Green Dot program provides various training and educational opportunities to teach students about consent, bystander intervention, and assault prevention. In addition, SASA provides a plethora of activities that highlight various issues regarding sexual violence, and gives students the opportunity to engage their colleagues and their community in prevention of that violence.

It is imperative that we all work together against these issues, especially considering the current political and social climate in the United States. We have already seen threats made to Title IX and the Violence Against Women federal grant program. We must remain vigilant to these threats and changes; if we do not keep ourselves informed and active, we will allow the perpetuation and implementation of norms and policies that fail to punish perpetrators of sexual crimes. There are numerous methods that anyone can utilize to begin combatting issues of sexual violence. Firstly, we encourage you to write to your political leaders. Call them. Fax them. Email them. Do whatever it takes to get to them, and tell them to defend survivors and make policy decisions that help to combat, rather than support, sexual violence. Stay vigilant. Read the news. Resist the urge to bow your head and look away; speak out when you see injustice. Call out your friends. Tell them rape jokes aren’t funny. Tell them yelling lewd things at women on the street must stop. Educate them that consent is an enthusiastic, sober, non-coerced, and verbal yes. That consent is not a dress, consent is not makeup and hairspray, music and alcohol; consent is not an unconscious woman lying in your bed. It’s never that. Always ask for consent. Ask it every time. Don’t assume that because you’ve had sex before, that you can do it again. Learn about what a healthy relationship looks like, and what it doesn’t. Learn that threats, isolation, controlling behavior, in the name of “love,” isn’t love. Be supportive. If your friend tells you they’ve been assaulted, believe them. Be there for them. Help them. And never, ever, stop trying.

We encourage you to get involved in your community’s events and initiatives against sexual violence. We can only make a difference if you get involved and help. Saying you’re against sexual violence, doesn’t stop sexual violence. Action does. Become a part of the Vagina Monologues. Come to Take Back the Night. Do a Slut Walk. Come to SASA meetings. Go to Green Dot trainings. Come to Total Safety Move. Challenge yourself to learn about these issues, and equip yourself with the tools necessary to make an impact. We cannot do this without you.

Thank you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQbei5JGiT8

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