This week on campus you have probably seen people wearing blue shirts that read, “It Affects Me.” “What,” you may be wondering, “affects them? I can think of lots of things: global warming, upcoming elections, the weather.” Maybe you are too busy to ask what the shirts mean; maybe you are speeding by on your bike or maybe you don’t feel like asking strangers about their clothing choices for the day. We’ll give you the scoop.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It Affects Me is part of a campuswide campaign to raise awareness about rape and sexual assault in our community. Don’t think you’re affected? One woman in four, by the time she reaches the age of 22, will be the survivor of a rape or an attempted sexual assault. Do you know four women? Chances are that you do. This is just one reason why it affects you!
It also affects you because you live in a world where women are not safe even from men they know. You live in a society where women are blamed for a crime that men commit; you have grown up in a society that perpetuates the myth that rape survivors lie, a myth that keeps them from reporting because they fear that they will be blamed. As a man, you live in a society where women often do not trust you because they cannot distinguish between a man who is dangerous and a man who is not; you live in a society where rape is allowed to happen!
The It Affects Me campaign is about speaking out about this violence against women in our community and helping to make a lasting change by eliminating sexual assault. In order to achieve this goal, we must always believe people when they say that they have been sexually assaulted. Understand what consent means – active, positive participation that is freely chosen by all participants. Silence cannot be assumed to mean “yes.” Accept “no” the very first time it is said. Never blame survivors for the violence perpetrated against them. Do not be a man who is proud of not raping, while failing to take action to change the men that do. Speak out against rape jokes and degrading references to women such as slut, ho, pussy, bitch and skank. Never voice, believe or support the idea that a woman wanted it; no one would ever ask to be raped.
Hopefully you are pissed off about the problem of sexual assault and rape in our community and, at the very least, hopefully this has made you think about these issues. To learn more or help us in the fight against the epidemic of rape and sexual assault, come by the It Affects Me rally Thursday, April 8 in the Arbor area. There will be games and information from 11-2 p.m., and at 12 p.m., we will make a human web to demonstrate the connection that we all have to rape and sexual assault.
There are also lots of ways to get involved with a student group dealing with these issues. Men Against Rape is an all-male group that meets Thursdays from 6-8 p.m., Take Back the Night is a women’s group that meets Mondays from 5-7 p.m., and Students Stopping Rape is a coed group that meets Wednesdays from 5-7 p.m. All groups meet in the Women’s Center library, and new members are always welcome. For more information or resources regarding rape and sexual assault, contact the Women’s Center at 893-3778.
Susan Landgraff is a media intern with the Rape Prevention Education Program and Meredith Donin is a peer educator.