Student group raises awareness of rape culture on campus

By Brian Bevilacqua

Collegian file photo

The Coalition to End Rape Culture, a new organization on campus, is looking to reframe the conversation about sexual violence on campus.

“(We want to) “start a campus-wide conversation about sexual violence, get people to understand and practice consent, challenge students to be up-standers rather than bystanders, overturn the myths surrounding sexual violence and its survivors, and ultimately for everyone to challenge rape culture and for this to turn into movement on campus where people will be actively challenging each other to make change,” said Zoe Talkin, a junior social thought and political economy major and member of the Coalition.

An offspring of the Center for Education Policy and Advocacy, the Coalition was started in response to the Angie Epifano’s column about her rape in “The Amherst Student” and to the alleged on-campus rape of a UMass student in October 2012. The Coalition currently has approximately 150 members.

The Coalition will be sponsoring a “Week of Action” next week, that will address the issue of rape in the campus community. The week will kick off with the group’s campus wide poster and flier distribution, with the goal of covering the campus with facts about rape culture and how it can be changed here at UMass.

Talkin defines rape culture as a collective mindest of culture in which sexual violence is prevalent and dominant ideologies, media and behaviors “normalize and socialize people into a system of sexual violence.”

“It is reflected through television, music, advertising, law, humor, art, and other cultural apparatuses, to such an extent that violence against women and sexual coercion seems normalized and rape appears inevitable,” she said. “What is most sinister about rape culture is that it is so thoroughly engrained into our collective consciousness that many people may be subliminally complicit in perpetuating harmful behaviors, social norms, and discourses.”

The week will continue with a screening of the film :Flirting with Danger: Power and Consent if Heterosexual Relationships” on Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 6:30 p.m. in Thompson 102. A question and answer session with the professors who directed the film will follow the screening.

On Wednesday, from 10 to 4 p.m., the Coalition will table in the Campus Center with poster boards, paper and art supplies for people to make signs about rape culture. The hope is that this will be an interactive event that allows students to express their frustrations with rape culture.

The Week of Action will also feature educational workshops run by the Center for Women and Community on Thursday for students who want to learn what they can do to change the mindset and culture.

The week will conclude on Friday at 4:30 p.m. with a march through the different residential areas on campus and then to the Student Union for a rally that will include various public speakers, demonstrating the group’s commitment to ending rape culture on campus and throughout the world.

The Coalition’s events are being organized through a Facebook group, in addition to emails and a word-of-mouth campaign.

“We want the UMass campus to recognize that we exist in a rape culture and to have an open space to talk about this issue and help change our campus for the better,” said Talkin.

Earlier in the year, the group hosted a letter writing campaign where students shared their personal experience with rape culture. The campaign was followed by an open mic night where some of the letter, some of which were emotional, were read for an audience of over 150 people.

Brian Bevilacqua can be reached at [email protected]. Katie Landeck can be reached at [email protected]