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On Sunday May 11th, a group of students set up a series of projected messages onto the Foss-facing side of South College, reminding people of need to continue the discussions this campus has been having on sexual assault in the last few months. We sent a few questions to the organizers, Mari Jarris ’14, Chloe Murtagh ’15, Ryden Nelson ’16, and Lynn Ma ’16 about the projections:
What was the purpose of these projections?
We wanted to catch people’s attention and remind them how committed everyone should be to the issue of sexual assault. Now that there has been wide-spread campus dialogue on this issue, we hope to delve more deeply into the causes and solutions of sexual assault on our campus. Victim blaming, lack of intervention, doubting survivors, and unclear conceptions of consent are only a few ways in which we socially reinforce the acceptability of sexual assault and deny the credibility of survivors. This social side of sexual assault is something that we need to confront if we are going to see any change—as a student body and as the administration who passes formal judgment on these acts of violence.
In light of major strides, such as the WSA resolution demanding the coeducation of residential fraternities, we wanted to remind the campus that sexual assault goes beyond spaces and organizations—it is a social and cultural problem that we see formalized in both organizations and institutions. One of the most disturbing example of this is the university reporting system, which is in urgent need of reform. The reporting system itself perpetuates victim blaming (“What were you wearing?”, “How were you dancing?”), has no clear conception of consent (“When you said you were uncomfortable and didn’t want to do this, we interpreted that as meaning that you didn’t want to engage in further sexual activity”), and constants questions survivors (“Are you sure you want to report? You know you don’t have to…”). The projections were intended as a direct message to the administration to listen to us and act now as well as to students to reflect on the ways we react to these messages and how to make this campus safer for everyone.
What messages did you guys project onto South College?
“I said no. He did it anyway. His friends affirm his character. The Deans question mine.”
“Do Not Blame Victims”
“Make Wes Safe”
“Speak Out Against the Status Quo”
“Silence is Not Neutrality”
“No means no. Asleep means no. Silence means no. Only yes means yes.”
Why South College? Was the administration your only intended audience?
We chose South College because it effectively and symbolically addressed the groups that needed to hear these messages. President Roth, Dean Rick, Dean Antonio, and others in the administration have to power and legal obligation to create a safe environment for all students, and especially for survivors of assault. The lack of prevention initiatives aimed at students, faculty and staff and the broken reporting system (one that allows questions like “Well, what were you expecting to happen that night…?” to be asked in hearings) is evidence that the administration is currently ineffective at combating and handling sexual assault.
We also chose this spot because we wanted the projections to be visible to students, so we planned it to coincide with , when hundreds of students would be able to see it. Messages reminding students to “Believe Survivors” and that “No means no, asleep means no, silence means no. Only yes means yes.” are important aspects of the larger conversation about sexual assault and consent we want to continue on campus.
Why do you think these messages are important for the Wesleyan community right now?
There were many messages we projected on the building. All of them together speak to different aspects of the issue of sexual assault on our campus and college campuses in general. The messages are really simple and direct. With an issue as sensitive as this one, people have to censor themselves a lot, and sometimes, people will never really get to the point. We wanted to remind Wesleyan to face the simple and necessary responsibilities we have as members of this community to keep this place safe.
Currently, we are facing numerous issues that must be addressed. We recently had the fraternities issue, but college campuses everywhere are facing problems with rape culture and the pervasiveness of sexual assault on campuses. We have to keep communicating with the entire community about how to make sure everyone can feel safe here.
Check out more photos of the projections below.