By Madelyn Weirich
As sexual violence rates on campus continue to rise, Texas State University’s chapter of Students Against Violence (SAV) is raising awareness and teaching students what they can do to prevent it.
More than half of sexual assaults on college campuses happen from the start of the Fall semester until Thanksgiving break. This is the time that SAV and other prevention groups call the Red Zone.
While all ages can be affected, SAV Vice President McKenna Burns says incoming freshmen who haven’t yet established support structures are especially vulnerable during this time.
“It’s a lot of times individuals coming into campus who maybe like aren’t as familiar with the culture of campus, you know?” Burns said. “It’s not their fault, right, but it’s typically like freshmen new to campus and upperclassmen that are potentially kind of taking advantage of that lack of information and lack of knowledge.”
Tailgating, rush and general party culture typical in the fall semester often place students in more vulnerable situations. This contributes to the high rate of sexual violence at the time.
SAV combats the Red Zone through educating the community. A common topic is recognizing cultural norms that perpetuate violence. This can include making seemingly harmless jokes that reinforce rape culture.
“[Rapists] never just like, wake up one day and decide to be violent or to hurt someone,” Burns said. “The culture that we surround ourselves with and that we live in really influences our like actions and our behaviors. And as much as we sometimes want to pretend like it doesn’t, the jokes that we hear around us– like if your friend group makes a lot of like sexist jokes or maybe like a lot of like rape myth kind of jokes– talking about those things like that really normalizes these attitudes towards individuals who experience sexual violence.”
SAV teaches that sexist humor, which often goes hand in hand with toxic masculinity and media’s portrayal of people and relationships, creates myths about rape that many believe.
An example Burns gives is that people often create excuses for violence against those who don’t fit the stereotypical “perfect victim” model. The “perfect victim” is typically a woman who is modest and does not seek out sexual experiences. This idea stems from slut shaming and the myth that men can’t be victims of sexual violence. Burns said that though sexual violence in any situation is wrong, this myth creates a culture that excuses it in certain circumstances.
SAV is also teaching students about bystander intervention practices. SAV President Monserrat Luna says that while many feel intimidated to speak up against sexual violence and it’s precursors, giving simple often raises people’s confidence enough to intervene. She also stresses that it doesn’t have to be done alone.
“It can be hard to intervene by themselves, but you never know if someone else in the group you’re in or somewhere else in the environment you’re in might be looking at the same situation and be like, ‘that’s weird,'” Luna said. “That’s when you can work together and step in.”
Anyone looking to learn more can chat with SAV at their table in the quad. Meetings are each Monday at 5 p.m. on the second floor of the Student Health Center.
Written by: Preethi Mangadu