By Jasmine Smith, April 27, 2021
In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, four campus organizations — the Womxn’s Resource Center, Survivor Advocacy Services, Leadership Development and the Office of Equity and Compliance — hosted a webinar on April 22 to inform students about rape culture and how to empathize with those affected.
The Zoom event, titled Revoking Rape Culture, aimed to explore various safe methods to intervene during sexual abuses, encouraging students to become an active bystander and join the effort to prevent assaults.
“We want to get to the root as to why this happens, which is why we wanted to do an event on rape culture itself to highlight how pervasive it is and how it can create a climate in which perpetrators of violence can get away with this,” said Maria Cerce, the Womxn’s Resource Center coordinator.
The event’s guest speaker, Brittany Piper, a sexual assault survivor and sexual violence expert, delivered an informative and emotional presentation discussing mass media’s role in desensitizing sex and sexual violence.
“This is what we see checking out of the grocery store on the front of a magazine stand: Sex sells,” Piper said. “It is the number one commodity in our world today, and the story what it tells us is that sex is about bodies. We have dehumanized and objectified the act of sex.”
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, every 73 seconds someone in the United States is experiencing some form of sexual violence. Sex surrounds people 24/7, from provocative perfume ads to video games that show women being violated. The constant display desensitizes people to the emotional aspect of sex.
The intimate event showcased a decade-old news clip featuring a brave woman who survived a sexual assault. Surprising the student participants, Piper revealed that she is the woman behind the clips. Although she found justice, so many other victims’ assaulters can roam free.
Another difference pointed out was that race plays a part in who is convicted of rape because justice is skewed. Piper explained that privileged white men are held to a lower standard than men of color. For example, in the California criminal case, People v. Turner, a white student-athlete from Stanford University was only sentenced to three months while the Black man who assaulted Piper was sentenced to 60 years.
Toward the end of the event, there was a Q&A segment where attendees anonymously asked Piper questions about how to become themselves again and make their body their own after getting assaulted. Piper suggested writing personal love notes to rebuild confidence and self-love.
“I hope for those who are survivors of sexual assault to realize that they are not alone, that there are people who will support them and that there are resources available to help them,” said Piper Bridgman, a second-year art history and anthropology student. “I also hope people realize that in order to end rape culture, everyone needs to work together. If you see something happening, you need to say something. We’re at the point where you can’t just sit on the sidelines and wait for this to be resolved.”
The webinar will be available to stream until May 21 for students who were unable to attend the event.
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