News

Sexual Violence Gets Attention on Campus

Although brought by different organizations, two CLPs last week followed a similar theme of sexual violence.

By Stephanie Bauer, News Editor

Although brought by different organizations, two CLPs last week followed a similar theme of sexual violence.

On Tues., Oct. 23, ROTC sponsored the CLP “Invisible War” where the film Invisible War was shown. The viewing was followed by a panel discussion.

The film showed startling statistics of the number of women who have been raped or sexually assaulted in the military.

The panel discussion featured two members of the military: Captain Ryan Wardle and First Sergeant Kimberly Gilleran. Dr. Idella Glenn, Director of Multicultural Affairs and co-advisor of student conduct was also on the panel, and Dr. Liz Smith, a Political Science professor, moderated.

Smith asked the panel their reactions to the film and then the audience had a chance to ask questions.

Both Gilleran and Wardle said they had never been in a command where women came forward saying they were sexually assaulted, but they both knew that fear of sexual assault exists. Gilleran said that sometimes she was “more afraid to go the bathroom at night alone than of mortars.”

Wardle talked about his wife who was deployed with him and said he didn’t like that he couldn’t always be there to protect her.

“I’m talking about sexual assault a lot in my office,” said Wardle. “It’s an area of focus now. We’re going to continue being aggressive.”

The two made the point that there are fewer students at Furman than under a single army colonel. Also, alcohol often plays a part in sexual assault in the military, as well as on college campuses.

“I think there were some really good questions and people were attentive,” said Glenn. “Furman takes sexual misconduct very seriously.”

On Wed., Oct. 24, Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention (SHARP) and FUSAB co-sponsored the CLP “Drink Like A Man,” which brought speaker Jackson Katz to campus to discuss gender violence.

Jackson Katz was recommended by Philosophy professor and SHARP committee member Dr. Aaron Simmons, who heard Katz speak in Arkansas. Simmons liked Katz because he was an engaging speaker and could relate to male and female students.

“He spoke about the role leaders have in changing the culture to think about gender violence as a man’s issue,” said Simmons.

Jackson Katz is a nationally renowned speaker on anti-sexism. It took a year of conversations to put the event together, but SHARP brought him to campus with support from Student Life and FUSAB.

“In the past, there haven’t been a ton of events sponsored by SHARP and they haven’t been well attended,” said Jessica Berkey, Assistant Director for Student Activities & Orientation and a member of the SHARP committee. “We wanted something different… Dr. Katz comes from a different perspective. He was completely different than anything the committee has ever sponsored before.”

Several hundred students attended the event. Katz spoke on men’s role in preventing violence against women. He discussed traditional “women’s issues” and explained why men should care.

“Men are afraid of violent retribution from other men if they speak up,” said Katz. “But it’s also a question of moral courage.”

Katz kept students entertained for the whole hour and a half talk by showing clips from music videos and even Disney movies. He also evinced a sense of humor throughout the whole talk, despite the solemnity of the subject matter. After every section of his talk, Katz gave students a chance to ask questions.

Most students and faculty who attended the event had positive reviews.

“Any event with ten percent-plus of the population is a big deal,” said Simmons. “Students who attended the CLP seemed to enjoy it. Some people thought it was groundbreaking how he approached the issue and some people thought he was the same old.”

Dr. Kristin Irwin, Assistant Director for Employer Relations & Graduate Recruiting and a member of the SHARP committee, had a similar perspective. “Dr. Katz does a good job with speaking about it as a male and female issue” said Irwin. “I thought he had an interesting message to send that resonated with students. Being on the SHARP committee I gained some insight.”

SHARP is a campus wide committee that is run by faculty, students, and a member of the Julie Valentine Center.

In the past, SHARP has sponsored events like the “Take Back the Night” rally, and the “Clothesline Project.” SHARP also supports The Vagina Monologues.

“Our goal is to enhance programming coming from SHARP and have programs students would want to come to that deal with Furman and the greater community,” said Berkey.

On Feb. 7, there will be a Sexual Assault Prevention Awareness Night at a basketball game. The proceeds from the night will benefit the Julie Valentine Center.

SHARP also wants to do a self-defense or advocacy course in the future. They also hope to bring a local speaker to speak on South Carolina immigrant victims and sex trafficking.

Although both CLPs started conversations on sexual violence, those conversations alone cannot solve the problem of sexual violence on Furman’s campus.

“I was thrilled with the support the idea got from SHARP, happy with the turnout of students, and am hopeful for the continued attention of these issues in our community,” said Simmons.

“We just need to make awareness of the issue,” said Irwin. “By being a CLP it provided a larger audience to hear his message.”

Both Simmons and Irwin both commented that awareness is only the first step. It will take a long time for the culture of a community to change.

“I hope the impact of the event wasn’t that night but conversations later on,” said Simmons. “Moral issues that concern our identities and how we see ourselves in the community are hard issues and Furman is remarkably good at thinking well of itself. We need to work hard to realize no matter how good we are we can be better with issues.”

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