Reflections on the Consent is Sexy Campaign: Moving Forward, Looking Back
“To grieve, and to make grief itself into a resource for politics, is not to be resigned to inaction, but it may be understood as the slow process by which we develop a point of identification with suffering itself. The disorientation of grief—“Who have I become?” or indeed, “What is left of me?” “What is it in the Other that I have lost?”—posits the “I” in the mode of unknowingness.” (30)
The Consent is Sexy campaign I co-organized for my Final Web Event has definitely been an emotionally, physically, and academically exhausting venture. The above quote speaks greatly to my feelings about the campaign. The project was a political endeavor inspired by my experience of violence, trauma, and grief. However, it was also an exploration and coming to terms with the new person that came out of the survival of that trauma. For me, the campaign was just as much a form of mourning as it was inspired by mourning. The emotional nature of this form of politics was inspiring and empowering at the same time that it was frustrating and problematic. These experiences have made me wonder if restorative justice can truly be achieved for survivors when their community is willing to look forward, but not back.
I’d been working on another paper for this web event, one linking human rights abuses to sexual assault, and examining the relevance of transitional justice mechanisms. After the past three days, however, I feel compelled to share some of what’s been going on in my quest to build “right relationships” between people – students, administrators, faculty, and staff – on Haverford’s campus.
The Context: Rape and Sexual Assault at Haverford College
Haverford is mandated by the Clery Act to report crime statistics, including sex offenses. According to Haverford College’s 2011 Security & Fire Safety Report, there were reported 4 forcible sex offenses in 2008, 7 forcible sex offenses in 2009, and 8 forcible sex offenses in 2010. The same report listed 0 non-forcible sex offenses for the same years (but does not define how it distinguishes between forcible and non-forcible sex offenses).
(Source: 2011 Fire & Security Safety Report, Haverford College, 2011. Page 6.)
The Security Report goes on to acknowledge, “According to the U.S. Department of Justice, crimes of sexual assault are among the most underreported of all crimes. This is especially true on college and university campuses.” It continues, “Any reported rape or sexual assault will be treated confidentially with concern and sensitivity…All victims of campus crime are strongly encouraged to report the incident.”
I wasn't able to be in class last Tuesday, which I was especially disappointed about after our class on 11/15. I've read the class talking notes and people's blog posts, and there are a couple people I want to respond to, and a couple points I want to make in general.
I left class two weeks ago feeling totally drained - not only because of the things we'd talked about, many of which touch me deeply - rape&sexual assault, Ensler's Huffington Post piece, activism - but also because I felt totally unprepared to be talking about such things so publicly, and also, to be honest, pretty offended. I'm not trying to speak for others here, but I thought that it was grossly inappropriate to take a student's quote from this website and have them read it aloud in class without any warning. As some students (and Kaye) have already pointed out, to say something out loud, in public, is completely different from writing it (semi-anonymously?) online. I felt that in some ways, a community was created as a result - but I also think that it was very insensitive. Kaye acknowledged that if she and Anne had warned us beforehand that we would be discussing rape&sexual assault, people may not have shown up, or had their guard up. It doesn't matter. That's our right.
This web event describes my plans for an activism project, to be completed as my final project for this course, which seeks to change the culture around sexual violence at Haverford. I've decided to do this web event super early because I want to be able to document my thinking at this stage in the planning process. I've been working on this for about 2 weeks now, and I want to make sure it is clear how this project ties into the coursework (mostly Judith Butler's work) before I get too far into logistical planning. I tried getting the video to upload but Serendip isn't having it. So instead, I made my own youtube channel for my web event, which can be found here. The web event is presented in three sections, which should be watched in order, from I, to II, to III. Upon consultation with Kaye, I decided to do Web Event #3 as a video purely because the topic of sexual violence is so personal to me, I did not think I could effectively communicate my plans via written words. I also find it appropriate to have this information delivered via a conversational video, since the point of my proposed project is to stimulate conversation. If any of you have feedback or suggestions, please please please voice them. I'd love to hear any ways to make my ideas better.