CGSA members to attend Boston rape culture conference

In order to raise awareness about sexual assault, members from Boston University’s Center for Gender, Sexuality and Activism will be attending Harvard’s Speak Up to Take Rape Culture Down Conference on Nov. 2, officials said.

The summit was organized by Futures Without Violence, a policy and advocacy organization based in San Francisco with a satellite office in Boston. Lonna Davis, director of the Children and Youth program at FWV, said the purpose of this summit is to give students a chance to talk about how to end rape culture in college settings.

“We have three goals [for the conference],” Davis said. “One is to elevate student voices, two is to educate current student leaders and administrators and the third to unite students across the borders of their institutions. We have over 25 colleges and universities attending [the summit], so that’s really good in terms of raising the volume of student voices as a collective in Massachusetts.”

This summit will include 16 different workshops, speeches and panels. Additionally, Diane Rosenfeld, a lecturer at Harvard Law School’s Gender Violence Program, will discuss The Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, a piece of legislature expected to go in effect in March 2014.

“We also have an award announcement,” Davis said, “… In 2014, we’re going to be selecting four student groups to receive mini-grants to enhance their activism, and we’re calling them the Break the Silence Awards. We’re naming them after a woman … who was murdered by her ex-husband several years ago and was an alum of Simmons College.”

FWV is a three-decade-old organization that focuses on educating the public, as well as changing social norms of violence against women and children. Davis said FWV officials host a national training program for judges.

Davis said FWV has partnered with several organizations for this conference. Partners include the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, Circle of 6, Hollaback!, Know Your IX, Students Active For Ending Rape and Avon Foundation for Women, among others.

“Our work around college campuses is about changing policy at the leadership level, but moving towards prevention so that we can envision college campuses that are based on the fact and not fear,” Davis said.

Ileana Tauscher, CGSA public relations coordinator and School of Management senior, said sexual violence is a national issue on college campuses.

“The significance is this [sexual violence] has been a growing conversation in the past few years,” Tauscher said. “It’s definitely becoming more and more significant, as people become more aware of violence, especially sexual violence on campus. It’s always good to have a forum to discuss issues about that … It’s a good way to connect Boston-based organizations and Boston schools.”

Tauscher said she hopes this conference will empower attendees to know they can make a difference on their campuses.

“I know sometimes it [the issue of sexual violence] seems like something that’s too big of a problem to be solved,” she said. “… It’s important that we continue this conversation, that we’re more vocal about it and that people are aware that they have the resources and they have the support, in terms of making campuses safer.”

CGSA member Melanie Kirsh said she hopes this conference will offer more strategies on how to advocate for safer spaces and active bystanders. Additionally, she said she hopes this conference will highlight how much rape culture affects a college community.

“If we start advocating for safer spaces and safer communities, we can work to make sure rape culture is not acceptable,” Kirsh, a College of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said. “Especially because it’s perpetuated through environments where people don’t say ‘hey, that’s not a cool joke’ or who are victim-blaming and slut-shaming.”

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