Amid an ongoing campus conversation surrounding sexual assault, students gathered at the Trotter Multicultural Center on Friday and Saturday to continue the discussion.
The two-day retreat, titled “Culture Shift: Organizing Student Leaders to Stand Against Sexual Violence,” examined topics such as the University’s Student Sexual Misconduct Policy and bystander intervention through lectures and group conversation.
LSA junior Fabiana Diaz, event organizer and SAPAC volunteer, said the retreat was designed to create an environment conducive to serious dialogue around sexual assault on campus.
“I think we are fed up with the national narrative that is being portrayed in the media — and not just that, but in our campus,” she said.
Diaz alluded to students calling for former Athletic Director Dave Brandon’s termination from the University, where more than 1,000 students gathered in protest. Brandon came under fire after a series of events, most notably the Athletic Department’s controversial handling of sophomore quarter-back Shane Morris’s concussion in a September game against Minnesota.
“Where is that when it comes to real, serious issues, such as rape?”
From the start of the retreat, Anna Forringer-Beal, co-coordinator of SAPAC’s Networking, Publicity, and Activism program, emphasized using the word “survivor” as opposed to “victim” in conversations about sexual assault.
“We use the term ‘survivor’ instead of ‘victim’ because it’s a more empowering term and because sexual assault at its core is such a disempowering thing, one of the ways to regain control is to refer to yourself as a survivor and show that you have ownership over this event,” she said.
On Friday, SAPAC Director Holly Rider-Milkovich and Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones delivered a presentation on the University’s Student Sexual Misconduct Policy.
“Basically, our policy falls into four categories: respect, report, respond and review,” Rider-Milkovich said.
Both went on to discuss the definitions of important terms pertaining to sexual conduct, namely consent. She said consent must be given on a continuous basis, not just once. She also emphasized that consent can’t be given by “a person who is incapacitated.”
“Students need to be mutually agreeing to each step of behavior as it’s happening,” Rider-Milkovich said.
The speakers also highlighted the fact that one in six men and one in four college-aged women will experience some form of sexual assault. However, Jones said because sexual assault is the most underreported crime in the United States — with about 60 percent of cases going unreported — the statistics can vary depending on the source.
LSA junior Jacob Abudaram, an LSA representative in the CSG Assembly who attended the conference, said the topics were important to discuss given the prevalence of sexual assault.
“People think, ‘Well, I don’t need to go to these workshops because I would never sexually assault someone’ and that’s not the right role to play,” he said.
The topics discussed at the retreat focused heavily on prevention from all parties involved.
For example, LSA junior Don Lyons, co-coordinator of SAPAC’s Men’s Activism program, led a presentation Saturday on bystander intervention that considered the concepts of coercion and sexual harassment.
After showing the group an advertisement for an episode of FX’s “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” in which one character discusses isolating a girl on a boat so that she will have sex with him, Lyons explained coercion as “taking away someone’s ability to say no.”
To curb sexual assault, Lyons also said people must take sexual harassment more seriously.
“It’s a really horrible thing that leads to other really horrible things,” Lyons said. “A lot of the times this is how someone will start exerting their power over someone.”
On campus, the topic of sexual misconduct has attracted significant attention in recent months. In October, student protestors called on University officials to address several demands to address perceived issues in the University’s procedures to combat sexual assault on campus.
Earlier this month, University President Mark Schlissel, who attended a portion of the Culture Shift retreat, announced the University’s plans to survey students on campus climate surround sexual misconduct and public safety.
Correction appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated LSA junior Fabiana Diaz currently serves as CSG communications chair.