UWO to raise sexual assault awareness with #Rapeisnotajoke

Denim is decorated with a quote for sexual assault awareness. Denim, a symbol to raise awareness of sexual assault, is hung up during the presentation for Denim Day.
Emily Frederick
Denim is decorated with a quote for sexual assault awareness. Denim, a symbol to raise awareness of sexual assault, is hung up during the presentation for Denim Day.

The Campus for Awareness and Relationship Education group discussed the joking and inappropriate use of the word “rape” and other sexual assault terms at their fifth annual “Rape is not a joke” event Wednesday in Sage Hall.

The movement #rapeisnotajoke was created by a student at the UWO campus after she overheard some classmates using the word rape in a joking manner, Associate Student Director Rachel Davis said.

“Some basic examples include ‘I just raped that exam,’ or ‘The wind just raped my hair,’” Davis said.

Along with #rapeisnotajoke, C.A.R.E. also sponsored Denim Day, a dress-up event celebrating the day female members of Italian parliament wore jeans after a potential rapist was released based on the argument that the victim’s jeans were too tight to remove without assistance.

“Since then, wearing denim on Denim Day has become a symbol of protest against the destructive attitudes and beliefs surrounding sexual assault,” Davis said.

The event consisted of multiple speakers and activities touching on the subject of rape in social media, sports and video games.

In her speech, Campus Victim Advocate Stephanie Kitzerow provided multiple examples of rape being used as a term similar to winning or dominating a task or opponent, but despite the attempts to lighten mood around the subject, sexual violence is real, and not something to be joked about.

“Comparing rape to non-rape interactions reduces peoples’ perceptions of rape as an attack and as a crime,” Kitzerow said. “It kind of helps normalize rape culture and that rape is something that’s unavoidable and not a very serious event.”

Kitzerow said society’s view on gender is a major reason sexual violence is so prevalent and shared multiple examples of society’s definition of male and female roles in her presentation.

“Gender falls into what society feels is masculine or feminine,” Kitzerow said. “These definitely aren’t the only ways gender can be represented, but when you’re talking about gender in rape culture, these types of stereotypes help perpetuate that rape culture even more.”

Senior Breezy Jackson said lack of education is a big reason for the joking and lack of sensitivity we experience.

“A lot of people aren’t educated with this stuff,” Jackson said. “Sometimes people aren’t exposed to these kinds of questions so it’s important to educate.”

C.A.R.E. Student Director Sabina Chaidez said even though it is a touchy subject, it’s important for students to be aware of.

“Throughout all college campuses there’s sexual assaults, which is really sad, but I think it’s important to talk about on this campus as well,” Chaidez said. “We try to keep a lot of our statistics related to our campus.”

Chaidez said C.A.R.E. takes a different approach to talking about sexual violence, but she feels it is effective.

“We’re one of the only organizations that talks openly about sexual assault,” Chaidez said. “We’re more in your face than others.”

Jackson said it’s important for students to become aware of the topic because they are the ones most at risk to be affected by it.

“I feel people don’t know how many sexual assaults happen, especially on a college campus,” Jackson said. “They are the highest population affected by sexual assault.”

Senior Justin Voss said making sure people are comfortable discussing the subject is important.

“I feel like if someone is a victim of sexual assault they might not feel comfortable going to anybody with their issues, but this kind of gives the opportunity to those who didn’t know it was there before,” Voss said. “Especially on college campuses it’s important to get the word out about it so it doesn’t seem so taboo to people.”

Chaidez said she doesn’t expect to change people’s perceptions in one day, but push for growth in the future.

“I’ve always had this saying ‘You’re only just planting seeds,’” Chaidez said. “You’re not gonna make anyone change tonight or how they think, but this event is important because it will plant those seeds.”