Bathroom reading

28 03 2009

I was at the WAM Conference at MIT’s Stata Center today and yesterday, which was one of the most illuminating and inspiring experiences of my life.   While I went to the bathroom, in my stall I saw a poster that looked like an anti-sexual violence poster that said:

Have you had sex when you didn’t want to?

MIT can help you out.

That text was crossed out and scrawled under it was:

No, Trust me it won’t!  MIT will only make things worse for you!

Two things that came to mind for me as I read this were:

1.  This is a subtlety in the language but by framing it as “have you had sex when you didn’t want to?”, emphasis is once again placed on the survivor instead of the perpetrator.  A better wording would be “did someone have sex with you when you didn’t want to have sex?”  Even though the poster looked like an anti-sexual violence poster it did not mention the word “rape” or “sexual assault”, which is understandable because some people may not identify their experience as rape or sexual assault.  After all, it is up to the survivor to name their experience.  However, I think that it’s still important for people to not be afraid to say the word rape or sexual assault.

2.  The cross-out of the original text and the scrawl underneath it is unfortunately reflective of something seen in many colleges and universities: the lack of institutional/administrative support for survivors.  Many schools do not do all that they can do to prevent or address sexual violence on campus.  And many students and administrators at whichever school they’re at tend to believe that they are the exception, that sexual violence just doesn’t happen here.


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