Consent over culture

Last week, Sept. 30 through Oct. 4, was consent week here at Loras College. Organized by the Overcoming Violence and Empowering Positive Relationships (OVE+R), Duhawk alum of ’18, Abby McElroy, stopped by to speak on the issue. She works at the Riverview Center, a non-profit with free services for victims of sexual assault.

“We will help them with any resources we can,” McElroy spoke about her advocate role with the Riverview Center. “I make sure people are taking care of themselves and they’re okay until they can see a therapist.”

McElroy went into detail about her job and the other resources they provide. These include supportive counseling, talk therapy, prevention education, and visits to schools to discuss the statistics. As an advocate, she specializes in support, being there for the victim and making sure they are comfortable. She also sees through that the victim understands their role in what has happened to them. Advocates are also kept under confidentiality, and will never report anything that is told to them.

One in three women and one in six men will experience sexual assault. This includes “incest, rape, marital rape, drug facilitation, date acquaintance, child sexual assault, voyeurism (peeping tom), exhibitionism (flashing someone), sexual harassment, obscene phone calls, sexual exploitation, molestation/fondling.” Most of these are very heavy topics, but people don’t consider some of these as acts of assault.

“Age, gender, anyone can experience it. It’s just not as accepted for men.” It was specified that men are also victims, and Riverview is available for them as well.

“[Rape] is the only crime in which the victim is blamed more than the perpetrator,” McElroy said. Social media doesn’t help with rape culture either, which is “a culture in which rape or other acts of sexual violence are common and in which attitudes, norms, practiced and media condone, normalize, excuse, or encourage sexualized violence.”

So what can you do? People can help by committing to change, being informed, and avoiding victim blaming. It’s important to be a support system, but only if you feel comfortable with it. It’s important to tell victims it isn’t their fault, and that they are believed. In today’s culture, people are more likely to not believe the victim and treat them all the same.

For consent week, McElroy discussed that the only way to consent is with “yes.” It is an ongoing decision that people need to agree to every time. It also has to be made by someone with the freedom and ability to make their decision. It can’t be pressured, and they need to feel safe to say no.

“The most important thing for college students to know is title nine in the Clery Act. There is confidentiality in what you choose to do. Also know that professors and staff are mandatory reporters of things like this. Students have the right to feel safe, and have the college look into it. Riverview will also come and work with you,” McElroy said as advice to students.

The Riverview Center is available for anyone who has been a victim of any kind of sexual assault, as well as anyone interested in volunteering with the center, as well as internships and the chance to be a certified victim counselor. Reach out to them if you need any help, or if you’re interested in the field.

Meetings for OVE+R will be every other Tuesday in the ACC from 7 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. The next one will be Tuesday, Oct. 1. OVE+R is always looking for new people with new ideas, but also people interested in the field or in their goals. Contact seniors Krystyna Kaminski and Jocelyn Holtrop if you have any questions.

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Rose Gottschalk is a copy editor for The Lorian.

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