UW Oshkosh hosted the Titans Take Action event Wednesday night, where activist Brenda Tracy discussed her experience with gang rape and sexual abuse, and men on campus participated in a discussion on masculinity and its connection to sexual violence.
The Women’s Center, in partnership with the Men of Color Initiative, Voices of Men and the political science department, all worked together to host Titans Take Action. Director of the Women’s Center Alicia Johnson said this event was a replacement for Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, an event they have been hosting for the past five years.
“We decided to take a different approach, or find a different way of engaging men this year,” Johnson said.
Tracy said she hopes other people are inspired by her speaking and finds it healing.
“I think for one thing for me, and just for me and my own healing, this is healing for me,” Tracy said. “I feel like speaking and sharing my story is kind of like a type of therapy for me.”
Tracy said she thinks the event at Oshkosh went very well.
“I got to talk to lots of people; lots of people thanked me for being here,” Tracy said. “I think a lot of people are going to get involved. It was a really positive experience, and I feel really hopeful and blessed to be here.”
Sophomore Jose-Medina Gonzalez said the event was very powerful, moving and eye-opening.
“Her talking about the impact of men and how we are not just the problem we are also part of the solution, and understanding that her story was heartbreaking,” Gonzalez said. “It was real, and I think that it hit a lot of different people, a lot of different age groups and different genders.”
Junior Jonathan Robinson said Tracy is passionate and is determined to help men grow from her experience.
“It’s very inspirational, you know, like especially since everything she’s saying is happening so recently,” Robinson said. “With all the actions she’s taking with the legislation and being a part of a massive change and a major campaign, that really speaks volumes as to like the effort she’s put into this.”
Milwaukee artists gave a spoken dialogue performance called “Break the Cycle.” There were roundtable discussions led by faculty members or student leaders, and students were encouraged to sign a domestic violence pledge. History professor Stephen Kercher helped lead one of the discussions, which started with the topic of toxic masculinity and led to discussions on violence and what role men play to create change.
Kercher said he was impressed with the University for providing a platform to discuss sexual violence and harassment. Kercher said the event is an example of the valuable teaching that can take place outside of the classroom.
“It also is a very pregnant moment in our nation’s history when you feel a noticeable groundswell of frustration and anger over sexual violence being so pervasive,” Kercher said. “So it’s not only a sort of timeless and very old dilemma and problem that confronts us, but it also, I think, is very resonant with the things that we’re talking about as a society today.”
Johnson said that a lot of national conversation is on how universities respond to sexual assault, and that Tracy’s story touches on that because she didn’t receive a good response from her university. Johnson said Titans Take Action gives the University an opportunity to think about how they respond to sexual assault.
“So, not only as University officials or administrators, but also as peers, as friends, as colleagues, and how our responses all build into the way that these events are responded to and how survivors are supported,” Johnson said. “So I hope that people make those connections and that ultimately we create a culture that is supportive of survivors reporting their sexual assaults while working to prevent and eliminate, ideally, sexual violence, by having these conversations and keeping each other accountable.”