Response to Sexual Assault Symposium (BU Ideas Festival)

in Uncategorized
April 19th, 2012

The Center for Gender, Sexuality and Activism (CGSA) values working with student groups and academic departments to produce empowering and diverse programming at Boston University. Every event we choose to endorse must align with our core values and meet the requirements our co-sponsorship policy.

The CGSA refuses to co-sponsor the Sexual Assault/Date Rape Symposium for the following reasons:

  • It is inappropriate to “role-play” sexual assault. Sexual assault is not a game. Role-playing creates a script for sexual assault by exemplifying behaviors that are dangerous and could lead to acts of sexual assault.
  • Traumatizing tactics: The beginning of the event asks survivors to stand up and make themselves known, capitalizing on survivor’s experiences to make a point.
  • Insensitive: The role-playing exercise is predicated on the assumption that there are multiple ways to interpret a case of sexual assault–or that there might be ambiguity or a “gray area” when it occurs. This disempowers and casts doubt on survivors.
  • “Sexual Assault/Date Rape”: Separating sexual assault and “date rape” trivializes the experiences of survivors by suggesting that “date rape” is separate from and less severe than sexual assault. The term “date rape” itself is an inappropriate term for its intended meaning because it suggests that it must happen either during a “date” or be perpetrated by someone dating the survivor.
  • The role-playing event, as admitted by Professor Hobert in the Task Force meeting on Wednesday, April 11th has no data to back up the success rate he claims. The event has also only been used for middle and high school students and is inappropriate for its intended audience on Saturday.
  • The proposed portrayal of a sexual assault could not possibly represent the experiences of all survivors, and seeking to do so belittles their experiences.

Here is a list of our values and explanations why this event does not fit them:
1. Gender Equality: The simulation model, as described, appears to reinforce inaccurate and offensive gender roles by playing on stereotypical gender expectations for the role-playing.
2. Anti-Oppression: Subjecting survivors to an inaccurate portrayal of a rape and its after-effects is inherently oppressive.
3. Empowerment: We empower each other to make our own decisions and act on our beliefs. We validate our past experiences and use discourse and education to turn our experiences into action. People will be disempowered when told to identify themselves as survivors, especially among strangers in an unsafe setting.
4. Consensus: We were not approached in a way to help plan the event specifics, so consensus was not possible.
5. Action: We know that action is key in the fight against oppression, and we encourage our community to speak out and act on our shared ideals. Our belief in action means we stand in solidarity with other student and community groups in the fight for social justice.

• Most importantly, we were not consulted in the planning phases. By the time we were approached and asked for our involvement, this “simulation” model had already been decided as the cornerstone of the event, and we were unable to provide any insight or advice on its execution. Given that it is a sensitive topic, we would appreciate the ability to provide recommendations to shape the way that events regarding sexual assault are run. It is against our core values to co-sponsor an event about sexual assault when we cannot work towards providing a safe environment.

Our alternative event would have been: A panel with the same groups present to voice feelings, grievances and concerns using an open dialogue. This replaces the disempowering representation of sexual assault without limiting the voice and agency of the community.