This semester, while searching for classes to fulfill my Child Advocacy Studies minor, I stumbled upon JUST 321, “Violence Against Women.” The course touches on topics such as: abuse, media portrayal of women, gender, sex trafficking and war crimes. Although I was informed on some of these topics prior to taking this course, I felt that the interactive space the classroom provided brought in productive and engaged discussions about how our generation can start to combat violence perpetrated against women.
What I felt made this course stand out, was the crux of our grading scale — the action project. Maybe it was just the idea of actually applying theory to real life, which arguably does not play a big enough role in college life, but this project really made this course stand out. The project required us to conduct research in our university community in any medium we wanted. Everyone chose different methods: some classmates made awareness posters, some screened documentaries, others offered their bodies as a canvas for people to write on.
My group focused on annual events sponsored by college campuses addressing sexual violence. We conducted research on different campus events nationwide, and showcased our findings in the form of poster boards and lollipop bouquets that contained campus resources where students are experiencing sexual violence. As an attention grabber for our project, we utilized Hershey kisses to demonstrate 1,000 cases of sexual violence in the US annually with a total of 321,500 cases per year for men, women and children older than 11.
Throughout the week, as different groups executed their action project, we found a common and crucial thread that is imperative to address.
The way we try and assign blame to a victim of sexual violence in casual conversation normalizes and perpetuates sexual violence and rape culture.
Most people are unaware of the way their words can influence actions and ideas. It is not the fault of the woman or man who decides to wear something that society deems provocative; modesty should not be required in order to ward off unwanted sexual advances. The only way we can move forward in society, is to work little by little to change the casual conversations and educate others in a non-threatening way about the serious consequences of victim blaming.
The best way to change and make an impact is by empowering women and men to know their rights. There are whole websites that allow students to understand their Title XI rights, which prevents discrimination and violence. KnowyourtitleXI.org and RAINN.org and were resources that I found useful in my research, because both illuminate the magnitude of sexual violence issues that college students experience, and additionally provides support in understanding student rights.
What most struck me was that even within our own class, was how much these projects allowed us to learn from one another and educate each other on the various topics, facets, and possible awareness campaigns to rally for on campus. As college student, feminist and woman, I have to admit that this class opened my eyes to how easy it is to be unaware. I feel inspired by the change I am already seeing, with social media movements like #MeToo, increasing awareness, and more people stepping forward as advocates of the world. We, the people must continue to fight for the end of violence against women.
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