Author: Demi Duenes
Project S.A.F.E. hosted its annual event series Take Back the Week (TBTW) April 5–10 in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, focusing on intersectionality in sexual assault activism.
Project S.A.F.E. program coordinator Karla Aguilar said that the discussion around sexual violence often focuses solely on women. This year’s programming aimed to recognize and address the multitude of communities that are affected by the issue.
“The programming this week really looks at different community members. We’re talking about male survivors, child abuse survivors and violence within the LGBT community,” Aguilar said. “There are different survivors on our campus.”
TBTW also premiered “Upstanders of Oxy,” a photo and video series allowing student community leaders to share personal experiences with sexual assault and rape culture. The short videos were created by students in Art History and Visual Arts Professor Broderick Fox’s projects in documentary video class. The series aimed to show that anyone, regardless of background or age, can help prevent sexual violence in their own community, Aguilar and Project S.A.F.E. Program Manager Naddia Palacios said.
Six different students were featured as upstanders throughout the week in an effort to inspire and empower other students, according to Palacios. She added that the goal of the activity was to acknowledge the important role an upstander has in prevention of and education on sexual violence.
Although Aguilar oversaw the planning of TBTW, the programming assistants (PAs) executed the week-long schedule of events.
TBTW’s first event April 5 was centered on discussions about consent and abusive relationships. PA Alida Beck (senior) screened clips of “50 Shades of Grey” and allowed students to openly discuss the implications of unhealthy relationships. Students present also considered the role media plays in perpetuating sexual violence.
Project S.A.F.E. hosted a discussion April 7 on sexual and domestic violence in the LGBTQ community. The event was presented by Mieko Failey, the staff attorney and manager of the domestic violence legal advocacy project at the LGBT Center of Los Angeles. Failey focused on intimate partner violence and provided clarifications on basic LGBTQ terminology and language.
Shea Backes (first-year) appreciated the discussion because she believes many people are blind to the intersectionality in sexual assault. Due to a lack of discussion and education about the problems present in the LGBTQ community, the rates of sexual assault and violence are higher, Backes said.
“Students at Oxy need to know that these issues exist and that there are places where LGBTQ students can get help,” Backes said.
Dr. Marc Grimmett, a sexual assault activist, was the keynote speaker for the Take Back the Night event April 9. Grimmett’s short educational documentary, “My Masculinity Helps,” was screened the night before.
The documentary explored the roles of African American men as allies in the prevention of sexual assault and attempted to engage men in a conversation about masculinity and their responsibilities in the prevention of rape and sexual assault. Palacios thought the documentary fit perfectly with the theme of intersectionality.
“Although we know masculinity is a great factor when it comes to sexual violence and sexual violence prevention, there’s not too many speakers that can tie it all together,” Palacios said.
David Mariscal (first-year) said he found the discussion particularly illuminating.
“I thought Dr. Grimmet’s lecture was something that we, the male-identifying population, needed to hear. I know many of us deny this thing called ‘male privilege,’ but it is something that is very real,” Mariscal said.
Other events featured during the week included chalking the quad, a film screening and discussion on childhood sexual abuse Monday, an upstander resource fair Tuesday, an open artistic canvas project Wednesday, a self-defense class and a speak-out event Thursday and a tour of the LGBT Center Friday.
Aguilar said she thought TBTW was successful because of the PAs who bring new perspectives, ideas and conversations to Project S.A.F.E. each year.
“We want to create spaces that are relevant—we don’t want to put on programs that would have been helpful two or three years ago,” Aguilar said. “So the programming assistants make the events as detailed as they can and create programs that can speak to students.”
Through her experience as a PA for the 2014-15 academic school year, Beck has recognized that providing students with open spaces to discuss controversial issues such as campus sexual assault strengthens the movement to end sexual violence.
“I have realized how important it is to not worry so much about your language or what is politically correct but to instead start having these conversations about stopping violence because it has gone beyond a problem—it is an epidemic,” Beck said. “I hope that events like Take Back the Week can reinvigorate our efforts and bring together survivors and allies alike in their hard work and commitment to ending sexual violence.”
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