August 31, 2015
Issues of sex addressed
Approximately 1,243 SUNY Cortland freshmen attended a session about sexual assault and violence against women on Saturday, the same day that a Groton Avenue off-campus residence displayed a sign that some say reinforces the rape culture that the campus is aiming to stop.
The sign, spray painted on a sheet and displayed outside the Groton Avenue house for move-in day, read “Freshman daughter drop off,” with arrows pointing to the doorstep of the residence. Several young men were sitting below the banner.
The lecture was led by Tony Porter, who has helped the NFL and NBA shape their sexual assault policies and prevention efforts.
Porter’s lecture was an opening to a yearlong communication campaign to educate students about sexual abuse.
Porter’s message was aimed primarily at young men in the audience, saying that preventing sexual assault is ultimately up to them.
“Male socialization is the issue here,” Porter said. “We need to have conversations about healthy manhood.”
Porter said that there is a rigid definition of manhood that men learn at a young age, which involves distancing themselves from the experience of women and that the only way to express hurt feelings is through anger and aggression.
This “rigid definition of manhood” does not allow men the opportunity to properly express their feelings, Porter said, and they will act aggressively on those feelings towards those they believe are weaker, generally women, to reestablish their masculinity.
Porter acknowledged that there are more “well-meaning men” than there are perpetrators of violence, but these “well-meaning men” need to become a part of the solution.
“Why do good men let sexual and domestic violence happen?” Porter asked the audience. “We need to change the way men are socialized to view women, and how men are socialized to view themselves.”
Porter then asked male students to open up to the audience, sharing stories of women they were in love with and their positive experiences in a women’s studies class.
These young men had a positive reception from their fellow students, which Porter said needs to be a change throughout society.
“We need to show men that it’s OK to express their emotions and to be with women in other ways that don’t have the woman as a sexual conquest,” he said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
The CDC reports that 37.4 percent of female rape victims were raped between the ages of 18 and 24. According to the CDC, the riskiest time for women regarding sexual assault is during the first few months of the school year.
“The issue of sexual assault is like a giant toolbox. Porter’s lecture is an important tool, but not an end-all-be-all to fix the situation,” said Nan Pasquarello, the Title IX coordinator at SUNY Cortland.
Porter’s lecture is a reminder of the ongoing issue of the fight to end on-campus sexual assault and rape culture.
Campus police are investigating to see if the residents of the Groton Avenue house were students. If that is the case, the campus police will be investigating the sign to see if any university rules were broken and whether the residents have First Amendment protection to display the sign.
According to SUNY Cortland director of public relations Fred Pierce, the sign was brought to the university’s attention and campus police notified city police, who then addressed the issue with the residents. The sign was then taken down.
Just last week, a fraternity chapter of Sigma Nu at Old Dominion University in Virginia displayed an identical sign, along with others reading “Hope your baby girl is ready for a good time” and “Go ahead and drop mom off too,” which gained national attention.
“The signs serve to reinforce the need for all of us to continue our work to create a healthy climate that supports the success and well-being of all members of our community,” said SUNY Cortland President Erik Bitterbaum in a statement released to parents and students of the university.
There were three reported rapes from January to May 2015 at SUNY Cortland, according to the university police’s website.
“That sign displayed on Groton (Avenue) is the reason why we give these lectures” Pierce said. “As society becomes more aware of sexual assault, we no longer find signs like these acceptable, let alone funny. They need to understand the impact of their actions and why everyone was so outraged.”
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