By Diana Solano
The #MeToo Movement started captivating mainstream media in 2017 as celebrities steadily began to open up about their experiences with sexual assault. The campus community is doing its part by hosting events that discuss the different types of survivors and their experiences.
The sisters of Sigma Lambda Gamma, Inc. and the brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. hosted “Male Sexual Assault: ?%” in BSC 225W on Feb. 26 at 8:30 p.m. The event emphasized the concept that sexual assault isn’t a phenomenon that only women face — men are affected as well.
To open the discussion, the audience watched Seth Shelley’S TED Talk, “Men Need to Talk About Their Sexual Abuse,” which displayed society’s harsh neglect of male survivors of sexual assault.
Office of Violence Against Women Grant Project Director and Prevention Education Specialist Zach Gall, who graduated with a masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling (’17) and is a member of Anti-Violence Initiatives and Men for Integrity Leadership and Ethics Society, gave the audience a clear definition of sexual assault.
“(Sexual assault is) any form of unwanted or involuntary touching or penetration of intimate body parts by a person of any gender or being forced to touch anyone in those intimate areas,” he said. “If a person does not ask or if they were not able to give an answer or if that answer was not respected then there is no consent.”
Throughout the night, the presenters explained that men often do not report their sexual assault cases out of fear that they will be shamed. However, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in six men in the U.S. experiences some sort of sexual violence and according to a 2018 data collection conducted by Gall, one in five men has experienced sexual assault on this campus.
Andrea Hormaza, a junior public health major and the historian, moral and ethics chair and cultural awareness chair of the Gammas, is passionate about encouraging male survivors to open up about the abuse.
“I know a few close male friends that have been sexually assaulted,” Hormaza said. “They all told me that they felt uncomfortable speaking up about it because they felt that people would judge them for being males.”
Hormaza’s friends faced the same criticism that Shelley described. In his TED Talk, Shelley reflected on the words he heard from his assaulter that made him keep quiet.
His assaulter said, “This is all your fault. I thought you wanted this — no one is ever going to believe you.”
The topic of masculinity and consent was brought up throughout the night.
“They expressed to me that people would say ‘they wanted it’ just because they are males,” Hormaza said. “As a community, we need to learn how to stop having gender perceptions and be there for survivors. Survivors should never feel that they cannot express their feelings.”
Stephanie Cajamarca, a junior public health major and a member of the Gammas, spoke about Project Unbreakable, which was created by Grace Brown (’11) for her Women in Learning and Leadership senior capstone project. Over 2,000 victims of sexual assault victims held posters with direct quotes from their attackers in an effort to break the cycle of silence and shame on campus. Brown focused on empowering both females and males to have a voice and share their stories.
Images of two male students holding papers read, “You’re gay. You should want this” and “You’re a guy. You can’t say no to a girl like me.”
Stations around the room taught participants the differences between healthy and toxic relationships. Students also had the opportunity to play games to test their knowledge about sexual assault and write a letter to a survivor.
Dejon Ricketts, a senior urban education and history major and treasurer of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., asked the audience to consider what they can do to make students at the College feel accepted about being survivors. Many participants answered with the same response – the subject of male sexual assault needs to be talked about regularly and survivors need to know that they are supported.
“I didn’t know that male sexual assault was so prevalent on our campus,” said Viane Villanueva, a sophomore nursing major. “I was surprised to find that out. I’m glad that I came so that now I can raise more awareness for this.”
At the end of the night, participants signed a banner to pledge their support for sexual assault survivors.
“It’s vitally important for people to come out to this event because people coming from different backgrounds as a freshman might not know about consent or the full ramifications of what consent looks like,” Ricketts said. “You need to have an understanding of this.”