#rapeisnotajoke campaign highlights meaning of sexual assault awareness

Bailey McClellan, News Writer

Students spoke out against the misuse of the word “rape” and other terms for sexual assault as part of UW Oshkosh’s sixth annual #rapeisnotajoke event April 26 in the Reeve Memorial Union Theatre.

According to Campus for Awareness and Relationship Education student director Allison Smith, the #rapeisnotajoke campaign was created after a student had expressed in one of the group’s meetings that she was concerned about how the word was being used in a joking manner.

In coordination with #rapeisnotajoke, CARE also sponsored Denim Day, an event in which people are encouraged to wear denim to protest sexual assault and victim blaming.

This campaign originates from an Italian Supreme Court case in which justices overturned a rape conviction, insisting the victims jeans were so tight that she must have helped her rapist remove them.

Smith said the organization had passed out 300 teal bandanas across campus in the week preceding the event.

“Fifty had the word ‘ally’ and 250 had numbers on them,” Smith said. “The bandanas were numbered as such to represent the amount of sexual assaults national data predicts a campus the size of UW Oshkosh would have if survivors reported every time. We wear these bandanas in solidarity with these survivors.”

The #rapeisnotajoke event kicked off with a resource fair, where organizations such as CARE, Aurora Health Care and the University Police Department offered information on the different resources provided on campus for victims of sexual assault.

Student volunteers then discussed the seriousness of sexual assault by reading narratives from survivors such as Ozzy Osbourne, Lady Gaga, Oprah and Ke$ha.

The group also touched on the topic of rape culture, the normalization or trivialization of sexual assault, which results from societal attitudes about gender and sexuality.

Hannah Foley, a student director for CARE, said it’s important that students are able to understand and recognize rape culture because it is present in the shows, movies and music we consume on a daily basis.

“All of these things accommodate what rape culture is,” Foley said. “Rape culture is gender stereotypes. It’s people being afraid to be who they really are. It’s you being afraid to walk outside by yourself. It’s everything that you don’t realize is happening. It’s an invisible blanket that covers this University, covers this country, and there’s a whole world of people afraid to speak out, to advocate for others and to understand what truly rape culture is.”

Sophomore Eryn Schlotfeldt said the event helped open her eyes to the presence of rape culture in mass media.

“I guess I never thought about the extent to which it’s in TV shows and music,” Schlotfeldt said. “I thought that was super interesting.”

The event ended with a panel of faculty from the UP, the Dean of Students Office, the Counseling Center, Aurora Medical Center and the Office of Equal Opportunity & Access.

Campus victim advocate Ciara Hill said her job is to help victims of sexual assault understand their options and to connect them with necessary resources.

“I’m actually a confidential source, so if someone was a victim of sexual assault or dating violence, stalking or harassment, they would then come to me if they choose to, and we’ll just briefly talk about the incident and try and see what they need as far as support,” Hill said. “We have different options that they can do if they want to file a report with the police department, if they need to do anything as far as the University aspect, if they need to go to Aurora to get a [Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner] exam done, any of those things. I’m there to advocate for them to be there and be that support based on whatever they feel like they need in order to move up.”

Hill said the Counseling Center offers classes to help educate students on ways to protect themselves and others from sexual assault.

“We have a bystander intervention workshop where you go in and learn about different ways that you can as a bystander help someone that’s being a victim of sexual assault or has been a victim,” Hill said. “Then we also have Rape Aggression classes. It’s a one-credit course where you can learn different ways to protect yourself if you’re ever in a situation where you feel unsafe.”

Junior Jessica Kurtz said students can help combat sexual assault on campus by creating an environment that supports and encourages survivors.

“Become an advocate for change,” Kurtz said. “Use your voice to support those and make sure that they know that they are supported in our community and feel safe enough to share their stories, especially since a great way to help prevent it is to make sure that we really know the full scope of the issue.”