Feminism and Intersectionality take Center Stage at Rape Culture Event



On Saturday, March 25, the Center for Bioethics at theUniversity of Minnesota (UMN) held an event titled, “Dismantling Campus Rape Culture.” The event included a panel discussion moderated by Susan Craddock, the Interim Director for the Center of Bioethics. It included a student panel hosted by Minnesota Student Association (MSA)Student Body President Abeer Syedahand Sarah Super, the founder of “Break the Silence,” which encourages sexual assault survivors, witnesses, and empathizers to speak up.

“We understand how important this topic is; it impacts all of us… As long as we have sexual assault on this campus, we don’t have a community of learning,” Susan Craddock explained to a full Mayo Memorial Auditorium, consisting of mostly women. “This event is not about therapy; it is not about naming, blaming, or shaming; this event is about dismantling campus rape culture.”

Katie Eichele, the Director of the Aurora Center,kicked off the main panel.

“I want to thank you all for being here,” Eichele expressed. She has served clients in the Aurora Center for seven years.

“Rape is not about desire,” Eichele continued, “It’s about power and control.”

Stef Wilencheck of the Gender and Sexuality Center for Queer and Trans Life, an organization present on campus for 24 years, talked about how identity plays a part in rape culture.

“Greater trans issues are embedded in this conversation; Genderism is the oppression that comes from the belief that gender is a binary,” Wilencheck said.

Wilencheck also discussed non-binary people’s experiences: “Sexual assault is used as a form of transphobia…. [Additionally,] it is really important to address white supremacy in this culture. It is important to examine how this system contributes to rape culture,” she explained.

Tina Marisam, the director of the Title IX and Office of Equal Opportunity & Affirmative Action (EOAA), also took part in the conversation.Marisam explained how her organizations take part in the process of bringing justice to victims and perpetrators. Title IX receives and processes reports of sexual assaults and harassment and the EOAA responds and works with victims.

“We know that how a university responds to these events will impact the student’s trust in the university. How the university does the investigations is important… [and] we really want to get these cases right,” Marisam said.

Jennifer Porter, the Director of Orientation and First-Year Programs,finished the main panel: “Our office [at Orientation and First-Year Programs]is well-positioned to take this conversation to an institutional level. We want students to find community on campus,” Porter insisted.

Porter concluded by exclaiming her gratitude: “We are really excited to be part of this conversation; thank you for letting me be present,” she sincerely said.

Following Porter’s conclusion, MSA President Abeer Syedahfacilitated a student panel,where students were given the opportunity tospeak about their experiences with sexual assault.Break the Silence‘s Sarah Superbegan the session, discussing the role her organizationplays in helping victims heal.

“We’re specifically creating aninvitation for survivors to share their experiences,” Super said. Break the Silence led the recent march on Frat Row.

Haleigh Orteier-Clarke talked about her own experience as a sexual assault survivor and the healing process.

“The simple statement of, ‘I believe you’ can change your life,” Clarke said.

Panelists Kayla Pederson and Anishaa Kamesh are also survivors of sexual assault. They talked about their experiences of fearing not being listened to, which tragically led them toavoid speaking to other peoplefor aboutone year.

To end the student panel, Super shared some words of wisdom: “Everyone in this roomis doing more to end rape culture than anyone else in this community. Just showing up shows your commitment; silence will always support the perpetrator,” Super said.

The eventultimately concludedwith a Q&A session and the option to go to one of three breakout panels. The audience received notecards to write their questions, if they did not want their voices to be recorded. Many of the questions were related to the recent march on frat row and the rape culture present in Greek life.

When asked about her experience at the march on frat row, Supertold about how some fraternity members wanted to say they understand how survivors feel, but she responded by saying, “No you don’t, but I’m glad you’re helping.”

The panel options included Bystander Intervention, Undoing the Structure of Rape Culture, and Trauma Informed Leadership. These panels were meant to bring more people into the conversation and make it more personal.