Rape discussion draws larger-than-expected crowd
Published: Friday, February 8, 2013
Updated: Saturday, February 9, 2013 13:02
When the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and Women and Allies Rising in Resistance (WARR) reserved a room for their panel and discussion on rape and violence against women, they got a small one in Central Classrooms Building with a capacity of 25 people.
So when roughly 35 people showed up Thursday evening, about half and half women and men, some of the attendants were impressed.
“I thought it was very empowering and affirming, in a sense, that there are so many people here, men and women, people who are very knowledgeable about this issue, people who are still trying to learn more,” said Ana Singer, a fifth-year in international studies.
The discussion was lead by three Ohio State women with knowledge of the topic.
Hailey Swenson, a graduate student in women’s studies and a teaching assistant for women's gender and sexuality studies and the Center for the Study and Teaching of Writing, began the panel by speaking about how the rape cases in Delhi, India, and Steubenville, Ohio, have several similarities.
“Both of them had multiple assailants, this way in which rape was a shockingly social thing … The fact that there were ways of blaming both victims for what happened to them. In the case in India, that she shouldn’t have been out so late at night; it was 9 p.m. and she was with a male friend as well. But again this blaming of the victim, in the case in Steubenville, that she was intoxicated. And government corruption and inaction in the face of the assault,” Swenson said.
A 23-year-old woman was reportedly raped by six men on a bus on Dec. 16 in Delhi, India, and died Jan. 2 from the injuries she sustained. The rape sparked national and international protests.
Two Steubenville High School football players allegedly raped a 16-year-old girl on Aug. 11. The case became widespread news as comments, pictures and videos emerged on social media that mentioned the event and essentially confirmed that the rape, or something similarly inappropriate, had occurred.
Nikki Engel, a graduate student in women’s gender and sexuality studies and the instructor of a class called Feminist Perspectives on Women and Violence, talked about the feminist perspective on violence against women and what culture as a whole is doing to allow it to continue.
“If we construct men’s sexuality as inherently aggressive, if men’s value comes from scoring, and we, vice versa, construct women’s sexuality as passive, women aren’t allowed to say yes, then how are we setting a scene in which sexual violence is just waiting to explode?” Engel said.
Leah Apothaker, a fourth-year in public affairs and vice president of WARR, spoke more specifically about OSU, citing several past instances of rape that were not, from her point of view, adequately handled and what OSU has changed in its policies since then because of pressure from WARR.
Some of the recent changes she touched upon were the implementation of a sexual violence assistance fund that provides victims of sexual assault with up to $500 for medical charges, moving charges and other costs. She also mentioned a change in the OSU Student Code of Conduct last year that now requires affirmative and ongoing consent instead of the previous “verbal or non-verbal consent.”
“The university is talking about creating a culture of consent, so I think it’s up to the students to push the university to follow through with it, which is what WARR has been really good at doing,” Apothaker said.
The panel then opened up the room for discussion, leading into attendants’ statements and questions about things such as how to engage male friends in the conversation about preventing violence against women, how to get involved in drawing attention to the issue and how they have personally confronted people making rape jokes in the past.
Several discussion participants said afterward that they were pleased with the way the evening went.
“(This) was a really positive note on the end of my day to see that so many people were here to address this,” Singer said.