Rally Raises Sexual Assault Awareness
Emory students, staff and administration gathered on Asbury Circle on Friday for the Respect Program’s “Emory at the Red Zone” Rally in an effort to raise awareness about sexual violence on campus during a the first six weeks of college. The Emory Respect program formally named the The Sexual and Relationship Violence Prevention Education and Response program, works with the Emory student body to prevent and respond to relationship violence and sexual assault.
“The red zone is the first six weeks of college in which the most occurrences of sexual assault on college campuses occur.” said College junior Conrad Honicker, the respect program’s community outreach organizer. “This [event] is a starting point, this is the start of a dialogue. If somebody walks away here today and has the reality check that they can be an agent and not a bystander, that is a win, that is what this rally was for.”
At the start of the rally, members of the Respect Program held up large banners that conveyed stories of sexual assault during the “red zone” period. The students stood silently for fifteen minutes holding signs that recapitulated acts of sexual abuse that have taken place during the first six weeks of college. A few signs read, “I was drugged at a party,” “It didn’t matter when I said I was waiting for marriage,” and “my parents kicked me out because I was now a slut.”
Throughout the presentation, the provocative signs caught the attention of passersby. Many students were taken aback by the demonstration. “I didn’t know what was happening at first, and at the start I was laughing, but then I started to read the signs people were holding and I realized it was actually a very serious topic.” said College freshman Matteo Tortorella.
After the fifteen minute period of silence ended, students began to speak about the red zone, discussing what they felt to be the austerity of what many students are forced to go through during the “red zone” period. Honicker spoke about his personal connection with the red zone, explaining that “one of [his] best friends was sexually assaulted in the first six weeks of college.”
Throughout the presentation, members of the Respect Program handed out red pledge cards. The cards requested that individuals “do [their] best to help [their] peers at Emory in situations in which their safety and well-being are threatened.”
Student organizers then urged the assemblage to dip two fingers in red paint as a sign of acknowledgement of the red zone and its impact on the lives of students at Emory as well as across the country. The crowd then raised their red painted fingers in a symbolic moment to conclude the rally.
“A big issue for people who have survived sexual assault is a sense of shame, a sense of ‘it shouldn’t have happened to me, yet I let it happen’.” said College senior Emily Chapman, undergraduate assistant to the respect program. “It is important to have people come out with posters and speakers, to say, you’re not alone, you’re not the only person this has happened to.”
Coordinator of the Respect Program, Lauren Bernstein, wrote in email to The Wheel, “The Emory community as a whole must come together to end violence. This starts and ends with students as agents of culture change. Sexual assault is not a survivor issue. It is not a woman’s issue. It is an everybody issue.”
If you have been affected by sexual assault, you can contact Lauren at 404.727.1514 or by email at Lauren.Bernstein@emory.edu. or for more information go to http://www.bewellexcel.org/respect.”
—By Dustin Slade