This past week k(NO)w, the anti-sexual assault organization on campus, used part of the art wall to spread the message of sexual respect on campus. One of the panels asked “How Do You Define Sexual Respect” and provided pens for people to respond. One original student turned our label on the pens box into the word “Penis.” Where someone wrote, “Don’t objectify,” a student drew an arrow and wrote, “out loud,” and another, “outside of the bedroom.” These kinds of responses are disrespectful and indicative of the fact that this campus has a long way to go in regard to sexual respect.
k(NO)w was founded last year in order to give students a space to talk about and organize around sexual assault. This year has been largely about us finding our identity as a group and our place on campus. This first semester, our weekly meetings were focused around discussions of what programming would be the most effective to reach a wide audience. Our meetings also became a space for survivors to come forward and get support.
This semester, we have focused more on social organizing. Last week we brought Michael Kimmel to campus, and in the coming weeks, we will have a masculinity panel and a bystander intervention training. k(NO)w has been very active in many regards over the past year; however, what we have struggled with the most is getting the campus engaged that so we aren’t constantly preaching to the choir.
As someone who has gone to every meeting since the club’s founding, I cannot express just how serious of an issue sexual assault is on our campus. In the fall, it seemed like at every meeting there was someone new raising his or her hand and saying, “Sexual assault happened to me at Wooster.” Given that, when our art wall was defaced this past week, I could hardly be surprised. This campus needs to wake up and realize that we are a part of the national discourse surrounding sexual assault; this is our problem too.
While sexual assault may be an issue many students on our campus experience, we are so much better than this. We are better than treating one another with disrespect in sexual situations, regardless of how much alcohol we have had. Wooster students are better than defacing an art wall that is asking everyone to engage in a conversation about what it means to be sexually respectful. This campus is full of some of the brightest students in the country, yet we can barely have conversations that reach a broad audience about this topic.
As a survivor of sexual assault, as a leader of k(NO)w, as a WGSS major and just as a person, I challenge you to get involved and start thinking critically about the way we as a campus approach sex. Next time you see something questionable happening at a party, intervene. If you are getting intimate with someone and they say no, listen. If you want to do more and get involved, k(NO)w meets on Wednesdays at 6 p.m. in Babcock Cafeteria. Respect is all we are asking for, and if this is too high of a call, maybe you have some thinking to do.