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Let your voices ring brings awareness to sexual assault

Olivia Ward

Co-News Editor

Photo courtesy of VOICES VOICES (Vision-Orientation Intervention for Campus Equity & Safety) hosted the annual Let Your Voice Ring event on Nov. 16 in the Student Union. The event featured student speakers who recited spoken-word activism poems of their own as well as found work,”highlighting the importance of all of us as a community, caring about both the problem of sexual assault and the people who have gotten incredibly scarred by it,” associate philosophy professor and faculty mentor of VOICES Dr. Tracey Nicholls said. These speakers discussed rape culture, the rhetoric used when talking about rape and the stigmas against victims of sexual assault. Sophomore and VOICES’ Vice President of Events and Planning Serena Clearwater read a poem detailing her experience of sexual assault and its residual effects. “I’ve had my own experiences with this. My ex-boyfriend assaulted me in a bathroom. That fueled my drive to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else,” Clearwater said. Clearwater joined VOICES to help raise awareness for sexual assault victims, like herself. “One in five women in college will get sexually assaulted. It’s a statistic. It’s an awful statistic but it’s something that everyone needs to know. It’s a topic that needs to be talked about. It shouldn’t be hidden. We shouldn’t have to hide the fact that this is going on. We shouldn’t have to cover it up with slut shaming or anything like that,” VOICES Co-President and sophomore secondary education history major Kaelen Evon said. Evon noted that VOICES’ events are meant to help people feel comfortable talking about sexual assault in order to encourage bystander intervention -- something the group members are passionate about. “VOICES is a group that is trying to build a culture on campus that is unforgiving of, and will not accept sexual assault. We’re trying to address the campus rape crisis,” Nicholls said. “We’ve been putting on events that are designed both to create a sense of community around anti-sexual assault activism and also to basically engage in educational event programming that will train people, or at least make people aware of the need for greater training in bystander intervention.” Bystander intervention is the interruption of a potentially harmful situation in order to prevent sexual violence. This includes intervening in conversation or actions that promote sexual assault. “Bystander intervention is pushing past this whole idea of bystander apathy which often occurs in group situations, where if there’s something going wrong, every individual kind of assumes that somebody else in the group is going to take care of it. And often what that means is that nobody takes care of anything,” Nicholls said. “We all have the collective interests and collective responsibility in making sure that each and every single person in that group is actually safe and respected.” VOICES aims to prevent sexual assault by defining consent and having students put them into practice through bystander intervention. “The data that we have on how to reduce sexual assault shows very clearly that bystander intervention is the most crucial factor in that. If you have been trained or educated into a sense of responsibility in group situations, you are vastly more likely to actually step up,” Nicholls said. Nicholls addded that the goal of VOICES is to eradicate sexual assault on campus, as well as open the conversation about healthy relationships and consent. “VOICES isn’t just focused solely on sexual assault. We talk about how degrading our language is toward one another and the way to respect people,” Evon said. “It’s important for all of us, as a community, to look out for one another. If you’re at a party and see something going on, you should feel the responsibility to stop it. If you have the opportunity and the right tools to stop it, you can save someone from sexual assault.” VOICES is in its fifth academic year at Lewis. The organization’s members are currently planning for upcoming events as well as Sexual Assault Awareness month in April.

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