Final Concept Analysis Post

For me, the most important topic that we covered in class this year was sexual objectification. I had no idea that so many different aspects and parts of society played such roles in how boys define girls, and vice versa. Sexual objectification’s meaning is different for everyone, especially men.

In the text, we learned that some men are afraid of looking homosexual, and therefore objectify woman. Certainly, most men would not agree with this statement. However, the way that society has been over the past few decades has certainly shaped this mentality without men realizing its impact. We red many interviews of men and learned that there is wide variety of sexual preferences, especially during intercourse that men prefer. Although not homosexual, men can have some strange preferences based on their desires.

In learning about sexual objectification, we also learned about sexual assault and rape. I think that sexual assault (in particular rape), and sexual objectification have a lot in common. To me, women who are raped are not viewed as wholesome to the offender, as he/she views him or herself.. They degrade the victim, and dehumanize them in the act of seeking sexual or mental pleasure. The pleasure involved in rape cases is something that is an ongoing, very serious problem. Rapists are all trying to fill some sort of void, and fill it by pushing their problems to someone else in one of the worst ways possible.

Learning about people living wholesome lives after experiencing sexual assault was very interesting to me. It brought joy to me knowing that some people experience such sadness, and though the darkness, they can see light at the end of the tunnel. I really enjoyed visiting the museum and photo collection held here at Vanderbilt. All of the pictures were very eye opening. Although no one in the class has undergone exactly what the woman photographed went through, I think that it all brought a deeper understanding to the long-term effects of domestic violence, sexual assault, and sexual objectification.

When we talked more about sexual objectification and rape, more windows opened when we learned about programs on campus, and were required to do an on campus group project. This way, all of the students were able to learn about different ways to stay safe on campus, and learn about the resources that we are offered. I think that this was helpful, but it also made me realize which programs seemed effective meanwhile others seemed to be put in place but didn’t make an impact.

Overall, I feel this class was extremely helpful in making conversations about sex and the many impacts it has on society today. I think that the class made this topic a lot easier to talk about. It made talking about very important and sensitive topics such as sexual assault something that I could talk about comfortably with my friends, in a way that made us all learn. Being able to learn about the sensitive and dark sides of being apart of the LGBTQIA community was incredibly eye opening, and made it easier to look at things with more background and understanding.

Rape culture

Rape culture can be defined as an idea in which rape is normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality. In many rape cases, the victim has been blamed and looked down upon for the negative things that occurred in the rape. Recently, rape culture has grown on college campuses across the nation. Many assume that the victim of rape will actually be viewed as the culprit and seen in a negative light. According to what I’ve witnessed, this definition of rape culture can be refuted because the alleged rapist sometimes gets the bad reputation in rape cases. On June 23, 2013, an incident occurred on Vanderbilt University’s campus involving football players. Four Vanderbilt football players were accused of raping a woman in a dorm room while she was unconscious. Campus police found out about the incident while viewing video footage of another incident two days after it occurred. The campus police stated that the football players were seen on camera acting suspiciously. This incident is a prime example of how males, especially athletes, can be negatively viewed because of society’s stereotypes. Rape culture definitely exists on college campuses. However, although the definition of rape culture deals specifically with the victim, I feel it is necessary to consider rape culture from the opposite point of view.

 

If we take into consideration the example of the Vanderbilt rape case, no one knows what happened that night – other than the parties involved. Many assumptions have been made based on what was perceived as suspicious behavior. It is quite possible that the choices made that night could have been mutual. How does mutual sexual interaction become domestic violence in a matter of minutes? According to society’s definition of rape culture, the victim is supposed to be blamed or objectified sexually. There was one moment within this rape case where the victim’s sexual past/history would be considered. However, that information was quickly removed from the table. That immediately negated the idea of rape culture. It also made me think of rape culture from a different perspective.

 

As a member of the Vanderbilt Football team, I knew some of the accused players. Prior to the rape incident, faculty, staff and the student body had a positive attitude toward the football players. They supported the football Commodores, all the way – no matter what. We were winning and coming off a good season the past year. Following the rape incident, I saw a change in the way people viewed the football players. Those very players who some fans loved to death were now viewed as animals by those same fans. What bothered me most was that it seemed that everyone heard the victim’s side of the story but didn’t consider what my teammates could have gone through. In most cases, the athlete (male) is immediately considered the bad guy. This happens on campuses all over the world. The female is considered the victim and most people gravitate toward her word instead of hearing both sides of the story. Males are viewed as guilty before they even appear before a jury. In my opinion, society jumps to conclusions because of a male’s possible dominance over a woman. There are several factors that can contribute to a rape accusation and these factors should be considered every time someone is accused.

 

For example, women sometimes make the decision to consume large amounts alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol can lead to impaired judgment. The woman can make a decision at that moment to engage in consensual sex, but when the alcohol has worn off she realizes that it may have not been the best decision. On the contrary, after the alcohol wears off she may not even be aware of all of the decisions that she has made and may assume that she was taken advantage of. This assumption immediately puts the male in a bad situation. He is immediately assumed to be the aggressor and guilty of harming the female. Rape culture should have a second portion of the definition in which it highlights the possible negativities that the accused rapist could encounter.

 

The definition of rape culture is definitely one sided. I believe it is necessary to consider rape cases from both points of view. While society can objectify the victim and blame them, society can also victimize the alleged rapist. Without all facts, the football players were considered guilty. Just as the victim has rights, the accused parties also have rights. My proposed part two definition of rape culture is a culture in which the alleged rapist becomes victimized based on society’s assumptions of gender and sexuality. It is only fair for every angle of a situation to be reflected upon. We cannot view or analyze rape culture without considering both/all parties involved.

Project Safe and Power-Based Personal Violence

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Project Safe is a program on Vanderbilt University’s campus that provides help, support, and information for students, in regards to sexual assault. A few weeks ago, two of Projects Safe’s leading staff members: Cara Tuttle Bell and Wanda Swan came into class to further explain to us what they do at Project Safe, how they do it, and why they do it. Cara is the Director of Programs for Project Safe and Wanda is a Prevention Educator and Victim Specialist. The whole point of this program is to further spread information about power based personal violence (which includes sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking) to the Vanderbilt community and act as a safe space for students (who are experiencing any of these things or know someone experiencing them) to go to. Project Safe also supplies information about what defines consent, healthy relationships, and how to maintain a healthy sexuality—to Vanderbilt students. Project Safe works specifically with people who have been affected by some sort of power based personal violence and helps them through their experience by reaching out to other Vanderbilt resources. These resources include the Psychological and Counseling Center, Student Health, the Equal Employment, Affirmative Action and Disability Services Department, and the Vanderbilt University Police Department. Cara and Wanda work with these victims of power based personal violence and outside recourses to come together and create a safer place for students to feel comfortable in and more protected.

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In their class presentation, Cara and Wanda explained how they have recently written a twenty-three paged paper defining what sexual assault really is. The document is called the 2014-2015 Vanderbilt University Sexual Misconduct and Power-Based Personal Violence Policy. It outlines Vanderbilt University’s “principles of equal opportunity” and it “seeks to establish and maintain a safe and healthy environment for all members of the University community.” It provides information on steps that students should take for prevention, education, and training—all in relation to power based personal violence. The lengthy paper works to provide an elaborate definition of what power based sexual assault is and all of the aspects that go along with it. The document touches upon where to seek immediate assistance and ongoing assistance, all the different types of offenses (within power based personal violence), how to report an incident, how investigations (of sexual assault) work, and additional information for students, faculty members, and staff members.

While this document specifically touches upon multiple different aspects of sexual assault and is very descriptive—realistically… not many people are going to read it (especially students). I see this as a pretty big problem. Young people, specifically students, need an accessible definiteion of power based personal violence in order to fully understand what it is. While working on my final project, it became clear to me that very few students on Vanderbilt’s campus are actually aware of and could explain what power-based personal violence is—and what it involves (after reading survey responses and listening to interviews from students). Most students were either unaware of the rape culture Vanderbilt has, could not definite what rape culture or sexual assault is, they had no idea what any of the bystander programs are or do, and just in general—knew very little about the topic overall. Students have an unclear definition of sexual assault and many just do not even know what it is or what qualifies as sexual assault. Obviously somebody needs to inform Vanderbilt’s student body of the issues our campus is facing and about the issues themselves. Students need to be knowledgeable about sexual assault, power-based personal violence, and the resources available to them (such as Green Dot and other bystander programs). If we can somehow reach the younger generation in an accessible way (unlike a twenty three page long document) there could potentially be a lot of positive outcomes. If students actually understood what power based personal violence is and how to protect themselves and combat the issue, Vanderbilt’s community could grow to be a much safer place. Once students become truly education on the topic of sexual assault, only then can we see improvements in community life and perhaps a decrease in sexual assault on campus. It is very important students gain awareness on the matter in order to be able to keep themselves and their peers protected. Along with this, all victims of any form of power based personal violence should feel safe enough to come out and tell people what happened. No student should ever feel ashamed or embarrassed. Victims should be informed enough about power based personal violence and all of the bystander programs available around campus. That way, if a student is affected by sexual assault they know about the resources they can go to for any type of help they may need. Overall, Vanderbilt University needs to work towards finding a way to easily, but affectively, inform students on Vanderbilt’s campus in order to generate a safer and all around better campus environment. There may not be an easy solution, but it will be worthwhile (and save young people) in the end.

 

Do you think project safe does a good job of living out its mission statement? How do you think it could be more affective in helping Vanderbilt students? Do you think the Vanderbilt Community is aware of and uses Project Safe as a resource for those who have experienced sexual assault? How do you think we can help Vanderbilt students to better understand the definition of sexual assault and what it really entails?

 

 

 

A New Definition of Consent

It’s no secret that sexual assault and violence on college campuses has recently become very prevalent in media and the minds of students and faculty across college campuses, as well as in the minds of the government; multiple stories and different accounts of sexual assault and rape have been in the the news, forcing attention to be drawn to this issue and for it to be addressed. Recent studies in sexual assault on college campuses across the United States reveal that one in five women report being assaulted on college campuses, which is terrifying considering in the past, cases of this have never been properly reported or given attention. Students and victims of sexual assault have begun to cry out also, bringing attention to this issue. Some of their accounts can be read in newspapers or seen on the news, as the sexual assault that took place on our very own campus here was. Time magazine even devoted an entire issue due to this problem; in this issue, multiple politicians, activists, scholars, authors, lawyers and victims shared their voice and opinions on sexual assault on college campuses and how it should be taken care of.

Two of the articles in this issue that stood out to me the most include an article called “‘My Rapist Is Still on Campus’” written by Emma Sulkowicz, a victim of rape and junior from Columbia College, and an article written by Jonathan Kalin, a student activist who formed a movement for consent called “Consent Must Be Created, Not Given.” In Sulkowicz’s article, she tells of how she was raped the very first day of her sophomore year, and she is near the end of her college life yet her rapist is still free and on campus and will graduate with her. Not only did her rapist commit an act of sexual assault on her, but also on two other girls. Sulkowicz would wake up everyday afraid to leave her room for the fear of her rapist; in the future when she looks back on her experience at Columbia, it will be defined by this. it will be defined by how she received no help from the university when she asked for it and how she will have to life with this injustice for her entire life. When Sulkowicz did reach out to the school for help, administration and the campus justice system dismissed her case and the accounts of what had happened to her.

Situations similar to Sulkowicz’s happen way too often, and are the reason for all of the recent backlash that Universities are facing today; in fact, 55 universities are under investigation by the federal government for lacking in dealing with sexual assault cases on campus properly.  Many universities figure that they can brush these cases under the rug for fear of losing prestige and credibility. This may have worked in the past, however, rape on college campuses has become so prevalent, and on some campuses more so than others, that it can no longer be ignored. In recent years, rape culture has been perpetuated due to the media, sexist mentalities, and a sense of apathy from society. Relationships displayed in movies, TV shows, and music’s lyrics lend to the idea of rape and make power based violence seem acceptable in certain situations. Whether people or conscious of it or not, these images and messages are received by people and can contribute to their mentality and beliefs on sexual assault, swaying them to become more accepting, or even apathetic.

In Kalin’s article, he speaks of his movement to recreate the definition of consent and educating people about sexual violence in hopes of preventing it. He asserts that societal norms and the expectation of what college life should be like have created an environment where sexual assault is way too prevalent always featuring repeatedly shamed survivors of assault and perpetrators who plead the crime as one of “misunderstanding.” Although the government has recently stepped in in trying to help prevention, Kalin believes it will take a lot more than just this to change the culture associated with this; in order for it to change, the definition of consent must be considered and changed. Consent is not a silent practice as it appears in many movies and TV shows. It is something that must be verbalized and discussed to ensure that there are no misunderstandings and the participants are on the same page. If consent is an assumed silent thing, then there will obviously be multiple misunderstanding and can lend to the amount of sexual assault that occur on college campuses. Kalin also asserts that consent should not be made out to be a commodity, therefore people should no longer say that consent was “given” or “got,” but rather that is was created. If consent is created, then it should be backed by full understanding on both parties involved.

The recent strides made by the government and other activist organizations have helped the this cause immensely. College campuses have created outlets and resources to aid student victims and give them an outlet for support. Organizations such as Project Safe, Green Dot, and the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center all on Vanderbilt’s campus all strive to do this. Legislation has urged and pushed for bills to be written and rewritten to aid in preventing and solving the issue of sexual assault and violence on college campuses. Today, activists are still urging people to take notice of the issue at hand and hope to cease the perpetuation of rape culture on college campuses across the culture. In order for this to happen, college students need to be well informed and educated on the issue, knowing exactly what constitutes as sexual violence.

How could Vanderbilt do a better job of educating its students on sexual assault? Should informing students on sexual assault and violence be required by all universities? How effective do you really think the programs are on Vanderbilt’s campus at aiding in the prevention of sexual assault on campus?