BY SANJAY TOURE’ // MARCH 31, 2015 //
Jaclyn Friedman was once a victim of sexual assault. But she is no longer a victim. Instead, Friedman has taken ownership of her story, and now shares it widely in the hope of helping young women — and men — to better own their decisions, behaviors and wellbeing.
Friedman, author of Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power, A World Without Rape, and What You Really, Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety, came to Curry on Thursday, March 26 to address students, faculty and staff alike. The event—hosted by the college’s Criminal Justice and Sociology Department—was mandatory for student-athletes at Curry, and many other students joined them in the Student Center gymnasium for the talk.
Friedman openly discussed her past, which included having her attacker still living on campus with her when they attended Wesleyan University in Connecticut. She said someone on the sports team she managed raped her, and that the college did little to address the issue. This was a big reason Friedman decided to become an advocate and bring awareness to sexual assaults.
Many people are under the false conception that assaults happen in dark alleys or weird, sketchy places. In reality, Friedman said, they mostly happen at casual events with close acquaintances. And assaulters don’t look like cartoon villains. They’re often the good guy, someone who gets good grades and who everyone loves.
Many assaults that happen in college occur when alcohol is involved, she added. Among the tips she offered was to have a friend tell you when you are making a bad decision. This goes for men and women. Before going out, come up with a code word or phrase to say when one of your friends is getting too touchy or intimate with someone who may not be interested in sexual interactions. It could be something as simple and subtle as “You left your lights on” or “Come to the bathroom with me.”
Laura Ferris and Jennifer Dube, freshmen at Curry, appreciated that the college put on the event, given the assaults on campus in recent years. Neither has been particularly happy with the college’s responses to date.
“We were given rape whistles when the incident occurred last year,” said Ferris, a nursing major. “What is that going to do for us?”
Added Dube, also a nursing major: “Events like these help people be educated on the subject, so that these incidents don’t happen in the first place.”
The issue of sexual assaults on college campuses has received national attention in recent years. The federal government has been investigating colleges’ and universities’ responses to alleged assaults, and have required schools that receive federal funding to offer educational training to students, faculty and staff. According to research by the National Institute of Justice, women in college face a far greater risk of sexual assault than women of the same age who are not attending school.
Another topic Friedman spoke about was “enthusiastic consent,” which is a mutual, verbal, physical, and emotional agreement that happens without manipulation, threats, or head games. Lastly, Friedman sought to remind students that sex isn’t scary and something to fear. It’s a normal part of human nature, and people should simply be conscious and aware of who they surround themselves with.
“It is not bad to try things,” said Friedman, “unless you don’t have consent.”