Students engage in 14 Days to End Sexual Violence
By Julia Rentsch, Staff Writer
The chalked ground reads, “Over 300,000 college students are sexually assaulted each year.” Despite the impermanence of chalk, those thousands of traumatic experiences are indicative of a problem on U.S. college campuses that, unfortunately, can’t just be washed away by the next rain.
Gettysburg’s Students Against Sexual Assault group (SASA) seeks to educate students about this problem with their campaign, The 14 Days to End Sexual Violence, which lasts from September 21 to October 4, 2014.
“The purposes of SASA and The 14 Days To End Sexual Violence are to raise awareness and to help people who have experienced sexual assault realize they’re not alone and there are people to talk to and resources to go to,” says co-president Rachael Hammer. “We also want to show the rest of the student body that this is a huge problem on our campus. It’s not a joke, and most importantly it’s not something we can ignore.”
Sarah Connelly, also co-president of SASA, agrees: “That’s what the 14 Days is all about,” she says. “Trying to get the community involved, trying to get discussions going and emotions high. Our goal is to make people talk because any discourse is productive if it makes our students realize the gravity of the situation.” Having ceaselessly worked over the past summer on planning the campaign, Hammer and Connelly had to meet earlier deadlines this year due to the timing of their centerpiece event, a dinner and address by Laci Green.
Green is a prominent Youtuber who describes herself on her channel as a “sex education activist.” She is the host of Sex+, a “frank video series about sexuality” and has over one million subscribers. Her speech, “Taking Down Rape Culture,” will be given in the Ballroom at 7:30pm on October 1st.
“I’m actually very pleased with the timing of this year’s campaign because it’s during the ‘Redzone,’ the first six weeks when first years are most likely to be sexually assaulted,” says Connelly. “Even if some people aren’t fazed by our information, statistics, or events, there will be others that will respond in a way that makes our time worth-while: the students that approach us and thank us for the work; the students that ask if the statistics we wrote on the sidewalks are true; the ones who hide their past or their stories because of shame or fear of victim-blaming and who can find solidarity in the work we do. Obviously, we can’t touch everyone, but we can give it the best shot we’ve got.”
“Through events such as our discussion with Allies on sexual assault and the LGBTQ+ community, the discussion with Free the Slaves on sexual trafficking, the showing of the Bro Code and our nGender discussion of male entitlement, I think we manage to present a variety of sexual violence issues to our campus,” said Hammer.
In addition to the in-person events that are taking place across campus, The 14 Days’ online presence gives out more information and allows for more opportunities for education. SASA’s blog about the initiative (the14days.wordpress. com) is where you can find a schedule of events, stories of sexual assault that have been submitted by Gettysburg College students, and links to associated content.
On the Facebook page for Students Against Sexual Assault, you can find information on what “14 Days” events have recently taken place on campus, and what else might be coming up.
Many pictures have been posted showing students taking part in SASA’s events, and there are links to media articles about related issues.
“From the numbers on our Facebook and on the WordPress itself, hundreds of people viewed those stories,” says Hammer.
“This is where I think students realize this is not some intangible issue with the impossibility of touching their lives, but real people they might know or perhaps sadly they even have had a similar experience.”
Gettysburg has been open about trying to decrease incidents of sexual assault on campus, especially with the number of prevention pro- grams it has included in the past few years of first-year orientation.
“I realize that there has been a big push during orientation to try and change our campus climate on sexual assault, and we aren’t trying to annoy people with information, but the fact is that sexual assault is a huge problem on every college campus, not just ours,” says Connelly. “It’s something that we as a community really need to address because otherwise nothing will change.”
“Being co-President of SASA has made me realize that our school is taking steps in the right direction, but it has also made me realize how far we have to go,” agrees Hammer.
Though it was difficult last year for SASA to run The 14 Days to End Sexual Violence because of lack of student support, this year was made much easier by “an amazing amount of support from club members,” says Connelly. “We are always looking for help from the student body, and if anyone has ideas about events or new ways to raise awareness, we would love to hear from them!”
Recently, I came across a poster in a campus laundry room that was dated from 2001. Its headline read, “What Are You Getting Ready For?” and showed three young women putting on makeup. Its fine print read, “Make Decisions You Can Be Proud Of.”
This is a perfect example of how much our understanding of sexual violence has changed even over the last ten years: sexual assault is not, as the poster suggests, the victim’s fault, and women are not the only victims.
Thanks to organizations like SASA, our campus is working on getting past outdated assumptions about sexual violence and moving towards a future safe for all genders. Coming up is the 14 Days’ closing event, the All Campus BBQ with FUNK House on October 4. Everyone is invited and it is free, with an option to donate to Survivors, Inc., the women’s shelter on campus.