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Campus culture, rape culture: A survivor and an advocate

It was an incident in her teen years that she and her parents never talked about. It was something she tried to forget; they all tried to forget it.

More than a decade later, it happened again. She was a single mother of two children by then and initially didn’t plan to report the crime.

Not long after the second incident, Lindsay discovered she wasn’t alone. She was among 18 women who had come forward as victims of a serial predator, a firefighter and a well-respected member of the community.

Lindsay shared her personal story of rape and challenged common misconceptions about rape and rape victims during a special CLP event this month attended by about 200 Furman students.

The discussion, “Campus Culture, Rape Culture: A Survivor and an Advocate,” was hosted by Furman’s Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Minor in recognition of Women’s History Month, International Women’s Day and global gendered violence. Furman’s Title IX and ADA Coordinator Melissa Nichols and history professor Savita Nair, Ph.D., co-chair of the Women’s, Gender and Sexualities minor, facilitated the event, designed to focus on a personal, local narrative and on advocacy.

The World Health Organization estimates that 33 percent of women are survivors of sexual violence or intimate partner violence. While Lindsay’s experience did not occur on a campus, her story parallels the most common forms of campus sexual violence, Nair said.

Lindsay, who volunteers as a victim’s advocate, provided candid feedback to students about red flags for predators and discussed “fight, flight or freeze,” how victims respond in a violent situation. Too often “freeze” has been forgotten or ignored as an important survival response, Nair said.

“Get rid of all the signs and things you think you should be looking for. Rape doesn’t happen the way it does in the movies,” she said, adding that often people don’t report sexual assaults because the perpetrator is someone they know.

Lindsay’s rapist was an attractive public servant whom she had “Google stalked” to confirm that he was who he said he was. “Not all rapists look like creepy people,” she said.

She encouraged students to be supportive of any friends who are victims of a sexual assault. “Believe them,” Lindsay said. “And, regardless of how it may seem, reporting (the crime) is the way to go.”

Students at Furman have several options for reporting sexual assaults. They can file a report with the University Police, go through the University’s disciplinary process by making a report to a Title IX coordinator, or both, said Nichols.

Consent is not justified by alcohol consumption, clothing, previous or recent sexual activity, and even having to expressly say the word “no.” “Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault,” said Nichols.

To make a Title IX report, contact Melissa Nichols, Title IX and ADA coordinator, at Melissa.nichols@furman.edu or 294-2221. The Julie Valentine Center also has a 24-hour hotline, 467-3633.

Furman’s Panhellenic Community is hosting “BeBOLD” events as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It was recognized with a plaque at the Southeastern Panhellenic Conference in Atlanta in March for excellence with Women’s Issues. Each sorority woman is required to attend at least one event focused on educating and empowering women, said Katie Foster ’17, Panhellenic’s vice president of communications.

Other events include a BeBOLD Girl Rising film screening and discussion at 7 p.m. April 20, Johns Hall 101; and a BeBOLD self-defense class, 6:30 p.m., April 28, at North Village J300.

 

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