Coalition to End Rape Culture kicks off today

By Divya Kumar, EDITOR IN CHIEF
On November 29, 2012

After a semester in which two on-campus rapes were reported to University Police (UP) within a 3-week span, some student organizations hope to continue the dialogue to bring an end to the stigmatization sexual violence.

Students for a Democratic Society will launch a Coalition to End Rape Culture teach-in today in the Marshall Student Center Plaza at 1:30 p.m., endorsed by the USF Feminist Student Alliance, Theta Nu Pi and the Women Federation for World Peace at USF.

The event will feature a speaker from the Womens Studies Department as well as the Center for Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention, who will talk about ways to prevent rape and create dialogue.

It is estimated that one in four college women are the victims of sexual violence during their years in college, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. But only a small fraction are reported.

Catherine Lim, a senior majoring in biomedical sciences and an organizer of the coalition, said the coalition hopes to create an environment in which people feel comfortable talking about rape.

Were just expected to be okay when people make catcalls or touch you when you dont want to be touched, she said. Were victims all the time and we never realize it.

Gage Lacharite, a freshman majoring in engineering and an organizer of the coalition, said he hopes to see a reduction of rapes on campus. This year, there have been five rapes reported on campus to UP.

I think its really important, he said. We work in a patriarchal society. A lot of people dont realize how engrained (rape culture) is in our society, and a lot of men dont realize what theyre doing every day. ... I think a lot of men dont realize the privilege that they carry necessarily and are generally unaware of what comes with being a male or being a female.

The coalition, Lim said, will make three demands: for USF to require its students to take a one-hour mandatory course at all freshman and transfer orientations to educate them about rape, to expand the womens studies department to provide a space to talk about rape culture and to implement a Good Samaritan policy that would require those who see someone committing sexual assault to step in instead of looking at it and walking away.

Students at the event can also sign a petition, which states the demands of the coalition. So far more than 500 signatures have been collected.

USF Media and Public Affairs Coordinator Adam Freeman said in an email to The Oracle that the university requires incoming freshman to participate orientation sessions on Academic Integrity, Alcohol 101, and Financial Literacy.

Historically, he said, he has not heard of a course created through demand via a petition or student action.

Any time students make a suggestion about ways to improve their experience at USF, the university welcomes that feedback, he said in the email. ... While the university doesnt rule out the possibility of someday creating additional courses addressing particular topical social issues, at this point none are planned.

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