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Panel of faculty and students discuss sexual violence, the #MeToo movement

Kathryn Kinder, Rocket Contributor

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A “Me Too” Advocacy Panel was held on Tuesday, February 27th at 7:30 p.m. in the Theatre. The Women’s Center partnered up with the Gender Studies Advocacy Committee to address sexual violence and how the Me Too moment turned into a movement.

The event started with a video of Kesha’s “Praying” performance from the Grammys this past year. Following the video, a few members of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA) read an excerpt from the Vagina Monologues, which took place at the beginning of February. Their excerpt was titled “Over It” by Eve Ensler. This piece is re-written by Ensler every few years she feels is necessary.

Dr. Emily Keener, a professor of the Psychology Department, was the moderator for the panel. She introduced the panel, which consisted of students and faculty. The panel included faculty members Dr. Keener, director of the gender studies program, Dr. Cindy LaCom, professor of the psychology department, Dr. Catherine Massey, and director of the Women’s Center, Jodi Solito.  Students on the panel included junior Marissa Ferrara and senior Kali Kerstetter.

After the introductions, Dr. LaCom began to give some historical context to the #MeToo Movement.

“The movement was not created by Alyssa Milano; she did not even know this movement was already started,” LaCom said.

LaCom went on to explain how the Me Too campaign was started by Tarana Burke. She founded the movement back in 1997 after hearing a story of a camper explaining how she was being hurt by her father: All Burke wanted to say was “Me too.” Because of the story by the camper, Burke started the Just Be Incorporated Non-Profit. Burke was also named TIME Person of the Year in 2017.

The next topic that was discussed was “Why Victims Stay Silent.” This topic was touched on by the faculty on the panel, as well as some audience participation. Basically, the reason they stay silent is because of the social constructs of gender, masculinity and femininity. The panel went on to say how society deems that masculine men need to be “aggressive, dominating or in control” and feminine women “get blamed for what they are wearing, it was just bad sex, or they were just being obedient.”

Dr. Massey spoke about the military and her experiences while being in the service. Massey spoke about how each branch is different because of how male-dominated it is.

“There was a bounty on me to sleep with me,” Massey said.

Massey told the audience that she herself was almost a victim, but a fellow colleague told her what the men planned on doing not only with her, but all the new women recruits. Massey also gave out a few statistics about violence against women in the service.

43 percent of women using the VA said they were almost raped on duty. 22 to 84 percent of women were sexually assaulted while on duty.

Marissa Ferrara talked about her story. Last semester, she used social media, specifically Twitter, to bring attention to a conversation a few male students were having about getting a girl drunk, but not too drunk, to smash.

“I wanted to start a conversation,” Ferrara said.

Ferrara said that she never wanted all the retweets or attention for herself. She wanted to show how important consent truly is.

Kali Kerstetter, who is earning a minor in gender studies, spoke about how she had to write a paper and chose to write about on-campus sexual assaults. Kerstetter said she wanted to go to Greek Life and see if they wanted to talk about this problem. She states that she frequently asked a president of a fraternity on campus for an interview and how he never responded.

“Women are more prone to be attacked while in a sorority than walking down Main Street,” Kerstetter said.

The panel then went to a Q&A portion where the audience anonymously wrote questions that they wanted the panel to hopefully answer. The first question was, “What are the resources SRU has on campus?” LaCom was the one to answer.

“There is the Title IX coordinator,” LaCom said.  “But the three places on campus where it is confidential to talk about an attack or assault are the Student Health Center, the Counseling Center, and the Women’s Center.”

The other main question that was asked was, “How can we get more men involved?” The faculty on the panel each had a point to make, but Keener offered some good points.

“There could be a class, but it shouldn’t be mandated. We especially need men to speak out,” Keener said.

Keener ended the panel by speaking about bystander intervention and what we can do to help stop this from continuously happening by giving everyone in the audience a sheet on Action Steps.

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Panel of faculty and students discuss sexual violence, the #MeToo movement