Tue. May 17th, 2022

In hope of promoting a safe atmosphere on campus, a group of students currently in Applied Social Change (SOC 371) will host a self-defense demonstration and book discussion on Tuesday, April 7.

The self-defense demonstration will take place from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. on the academic quad.  Later in the day, the book discussion will be held in Sykes 255A from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Junior women’s and gender studies major Caitlin Brown is one of the students in charge of these events.

“For our class, instead of sitting, listening, and taking notes from a lecture, our key project is to work to actually create social change in our community,” said Brown.  “I came into this class with a lot of theoretical background, but no practical background, and this style of class is really helping me to gain concrete social organizing skills.”

It didn’t take long for Brown’s group to come to the consensus that sexual assault, especially on the college level “is an issue that people need to be aware about.”

“As a woman in higher education, the statistics about sexual violence are not comforting, and institutional recognition of the problem of sexual violence in higher education is scarily absent in most political and educational communities,” said Brown.

Brown explained that a “traditional way to help combat sexual violence is to inform individuals about how they can stay safe.”

“This method is well respected, despite there being other avenues that take the blame off the potential victim and place it on the offenders’ shoulders,” said Brown.  “We recognized that our approach would be most effective if we combined multiple tactics for raising awareness and starting conversations about sexual violence and consent, so we agreed to hold a self-defense demonstration as well as a book discussion.”

According to Brown, the planning process “consisted of regular meetings with my group members and our professor. We figured out what needs to be done to achieve our goals, and then divide the responsibilities based on our own strengths.”

“Each group member comes from a different major, so each of us has different areas of our project in which we excel,” said Brown.  “Each group member is networking within her own academic departments and with her friends in the campus community in order to generate interest and awareness for our cause and events.”

Junior criminal justice major Alicia Leitz shared that Jon Brill will lead the self-defense demonstration.  Brill is the Staff Instructor of R.A.D. Systems of Self-Defense, which, according to Leitz, is the “largest self-defense educational organization in the country.”  Marion McKinney, Director of Residence Life and Housing and a certified R.A.D. Systems instructor, will speak about safety with the audience. [pullquote align=”center”]As a woman in higher education, the statistics about sexual violence are not comforting, and institutional recognition of the problem of sexual violence in higher education is scarily absent in most political and educational communities,’ said Brown.[/pullquote]

“We have been in contact with these two for about a month in order to organize the event,” said Leitz.  “We also have safety whistles and information sheets that we will be handing out while the demonstration is taking place.”

According to Leitz, her group’s “effort is to not only spread awareness, but [also] educate the student population on sexual misconduct and self-defense techniques.”

The book discussion will be focused on “Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape,” a book by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti published in 2008.  According to Brown, they will cover the third chapter: “Beyond Yes or No: Consent as a Sexual Process,” written by Rachel Kramer Bussel.

“I hope to cover topics related to consent: the definition thereof, the value thereof, and what it looks like in everyday situations,” said Brown.  “My goal for the discussion is for it to be informal, and a safe place where learning can occur.”

Brown stated that the book discussion is “open to students who are curious and just beginning to learn about sexualities and consent, as well as seasoned experts, and everyone in between.”

“I hope to also be able to tie in Bussel’s chapter on consent to West Chester University’s own policies, utilizing the Sexual Misconduct Handbook that is available for students,” Brown added.

If you are interested in attending this discussion but unable to purchase “Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape,” copies can be found at the Women’s Center or the library.  Interested students can contact Brown at CB839062@wcupa.edu for a PDF version of the book as well.

Brown is optimistic that her group’s upcoming events will leave a lasting impression.

“While I know that change is often a gradual process rather than an instant phenomenon, I still am hopeful that we will be able to help foster a culture of enthusiastic consent on campus, and that by doing so, we will able to help to make our campus more informed and a safer place for all students,” said Brown.

Casey Tobias is a first-year student majoring in women’s and gender studies. She can be reached at CT822683@wcupa.edu or on Twitter at Twitter @Casey__Tobias.

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