What does it take to reduce, or even end, the epidemic of sexual violence on college campuses? There are lots of different answers to that question, and SAPAC’s staff and volunteers are engaged in almost every strategy imaginable. The Networking, Publicity, and Activism committee of SAPAC (NPAs) focuses on education, awareness-raising, and activism. Our goal is to change the overall campus climate surrounding issues of sexual violence – we refute harmful myths, initiate and participate in public dialogues, encourage bystanders to get involved, and create spaces where people concerned about violence can meet, self-educate, and find support. We believe a combination of personal and collective transformation is necessary to prevent violence in our campus communities.
In the fall of 2012, the NPAs organized a number of gatherings for the campus and the public. We kicked off our semester in October, with events in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. At the start of the month, we held a rally in the diag, complete with a display of the Clothesline Project, a reading of domestic violence statistics, and lots of free buttons and other swag for people to show their support for survivors, consent, and healthy relationships. Volunteers staffed tables and booths throughout campus with info about domestic violence, distributing resources and engaging in one-on-one conversations with countless passersby.
Near the end of October, NPAs organized a film screening of Half the Sky, co-hosted with the LSA Student Government Diversity Affairs Committee. The film examines issues of gender-based oppression around the world, and is based on a book of the same name by Nicholas Kristof. The film and book have attracted praise as well as criticism. Advocates claim that it does important work establishing that women’s rights are human rights, and promoting global awareness of violence against women. Critics claim that it casts a narrow gaze on the Global South, placing too much blame on “culture” as a source of oppression, without paying enough attention to the impact of militarism, war, and economic development, and without acknowledging problems of violence against women in the United States and Europe. Film attendees enjoyed excerpts from the film and a vigorous discussion of the issues that were raised.
Our last public event of the semester was a Speak Out organized in November. Participants gathered in the student union, and shared their stories of survivorship, healing, empowerment, and activism. Some stories, gathered in advance, were read anonymously; those who chose to share their stories directly were able to do so in a room filled with love and compassion. Many survivors and allies reported that the opportunity to talk about their experiences of violence – and to listen to the stories of other survivors – was profound for their personal healing and their motivation to work for a world free of violence for everyone.
NPAs created a variety of other projects over the course of the term – we assisted with the Relationship Remix workshop series, organized self-care events for our own members, and established new coalitions with other campus organizations, like Ask Big Questions, and SOAP (Students Organizing Against Prisons). NPA members also attended campus forums on the new sexual offense policy, making our voices heard in favor a clear, concise, consent-based policy.
We are thrilled about our accomplishments in the Fall, and look forward to an exciting semester in the Spring. Keep an eye out for upcoming NPA activities, including Project rEV – an exhibit featuring revolutionary artwork with an anti-violence social message.