#CultureofRespect: Sexual assault campaign taken online

Story by Da’Sha Tuck, Staff writer

Murray State’s Women’s Center joined the #CultureofRespect campaign, an educational movement aimed at promoting behaviors and approaches to discourage sexual assault, this month.

The Women’s Center also invited students, faculty and staff to get involved through the #CultureofRespect Facebook page.

After joining, students could post pictures or videos saying what a culture of respect meant to them.

“This campaign is meant to challenge students to think about the culture they live in and how they can make a positive impact by promoting respect,” said Abigail French, director of the Women’s Center.

French said traditionally, efforts have focused on preventing “rape culture.” Now, the focus has shifted to creating a “respect culture.”

“College students across the country participated online through various social media outlets to share messages of support for a culture that promotes respect,” she said.

A group of parents with college-aged children founded Culture of Respect in 2013. The parents were unsettled about the rate of sexual assaults on college campuses and wanted to act.

These parents wanted to make a way for students and victims of sexual assault to have more access to information and resources they could turn to in an assault situation.

Despite the efforts, getting the word out about the #CultureofRespect campaign proved to be difficult over the last two weeks.

French said the Women’s Center advertised the campaign in several ways.

Information about how to join the campaign was shared online, like how to contact the housing staff to get residents involved, set up tables in the Curris Center and encourage the online social media presence of student leaders such as resident advisers.

Jeanie Morgan, adviser of the Student Government Association and student organizations, said she sent out information to all student organizations regarding the #CultureofRespect campaign.

Morgan said she could send reminder emails out all day long, but there has to be some kind of accountability to the students to want to know what is going on.

The Murray State News asked several students about the #CultureofRepect campaign, but none knew anything about it and some had no idea April is Sexual Assault Awareness month.

However, the table the Women’s Center set up in the Curris Center had a decent turnout. The table was set up with a teal ribbon and a dry erase board with the words “I wear teal because” written on it. Students then finished the statement with their reason for wearing teal.

Some of the statements included, “I wear teal because survivors’ voices should be heard,” “I wear teal because silence hides violence” and “I wear teal because no one should be made to feel like they deserve abuse.”

Landen Bates, junior from Shelbyville, Kentucky, also had his reasons for wearing teal. He said as a survivor of sexual assault, it has always been important to him to bring awareness to the idea that anyone can be a victim.

“It can happen to anyone and being a victim doesn’t make you less of a person,” Bates said. “It is crucial to stand together as survivors and allies to stand up for the rights of all people whose lives have been affected under these circumstances.”

French has more events planned for April aimed at raising sexual assault awareness.

Anti-Street Harassment Awareness week started April 10. French said they will distribute banners in the residential colleges that display ways to end street harassment. They will ask people to sign banners and hand out buttons with awareness messages.

French said the primary goal is to challenge students to a personal responsibility to create and promote a culture that does not tolerate violence and proactively works to ensure that all individuals are treated with respect and afforded equity.

“I firmly believe in positive programming and engaging students in conversations about healthy and positive behaviors,” French said. “It is not enough to tell students what not to do. We also have to talk about what to do in order to facilitate change.”