Maryville College has long been a progressive campus that’s considered by some to be a bastion of blue amid a sea of red. It should come to nobody’s surprise then, that MC Democrats (MC Dems) spearheaded the campus’ first ever SHARE week.
SHARE week, or “Sexual Harassment-Assault-Rape-Education Week”, was an effort to supplant the college’s sexual assault training that students receive during orientation. The idea was first conceived of by MC Dems President, Kalyn Carpenter.
Carpenter began working on SHARE week last semester, after becoming angered with the way that this campus and culture at large deals with issues regarding sexual assault.
“Since coming to MC, I’ve heard of many cases of sexual assault,” Carpenter said. “I got fed up about it–fed up and frustrated with the lack of action and lack of reaction from students to faculty on campus.”
Though incoming freshmen are required to take a short course on sexual assault, SHARE week is a bit different.
“This provides a more in-depth conversation and is more specific to certain perspectives and issues,” she said.
Many different organizations beyond MC Dems were involved in SHARE week. From the staff at “Impressions”, MC’s literary magazine to Harry Potter Club, the events hosted were varied and interesting. There was a myriad of panels, discussion groups and events to attend throughout the week, including a discussion on how media portrays sexual assault and a poetry slam in Isaac
Harry Potter Club’s discussion on sexual violence in the media provided some eye-opening discourse on how “romance” in media is often anything but romantic. Coercion and normalization of aggressive behavior is neither normal nor justified, it doesn’t matter how “romantic” one would consider it. Further, the media does a bad job of portraying all of the different forms that sexual violence can take. Male sexual assault, for instance, isn’t often shown in media and when it is, it’s almost always played as a joke and not as a serious and psychologically damaging event. Similarly, same-sex violence and assault is even less referenced. This lack of portrayal doesn’t do any group any good, it only reinforces the culture that says that men cannot be raped and that women are always the victim.
Impressions’ Poetry Slam was an event worth going to and worth talking about. Students read everything from famous poems to their own work, and poems featured in Impressions were on display that night. Of special note is freshman Coleman Bomar’s fiery slam poem about sexual violence in which the verses and rhymes flowed effortlessly from one to the next, powerfully calling the audience to action to end sexual violence and show women the respect that they deserve. Brinley Knowles’ work was also read, and her poems concerning sexuality and the experiences thereof were noteworthy and eye-opening. Chandler Chastain’s work was read by resident technician Lenny Lively, and provided a chilling look into what the mind of an abuser might look like. If these sound interesting to you, then pick up a copy of “Impressions” and be on the lookout for this year’s edition.
The crescendo of SHARE week occurred on Friday night during the “Take Back The Night” march. “Take Back The Night “is an international non-profit dedicated to ending sexual violence and fostering a sense of safety around the globe for all people, both men and women. Unfortunately, only 15 people showed up.
Normally, I like to take a neutral stance with my writing and reporting, but I feel that this is unacceptable. This college can do far better. The 15 people who showed up were more than willing to pour their hearts out, tell their stories and bare their souls to all who attended, with the simple hope that someone might feel encouraged to tell their own stories and realize that this campus is far more accepting and loving than they might expect.
I saw dear, close friends of mine tell stories of their own experiences with sexual violence, fighting back tears in the light of the setting sun, and I was moved beyond what simple words can describe. The simple act of humans opening up and listening to one another was a sight to behold, and I pity those that missed it. I had contemplated framing the picture to make it seem like more than 15 people had attended, but one of the attendees enlightened me as to why I shouldn’t: It shows the necessity of SHARE week.
15 people came to an event that supported a cause that should have no party lines, no gender lines and nobody in opposition to it. Sexual violence reaches across gender, across political party, across age and across class. It has no place in this world, and if it’s ever going to be truly eradicated it needs to be less taboo. People need to participate in an honest and healthy discussion of the causes and cures for sexual violence.
Dr. Frances Henderson, associate professor of political science, encouraged those who attended that this was only the first SHARE week and that the next one will be much bigger. I believe she’s right. If everyone who attended this year’s event brings two friends, the number will climb to 60. If in the year after that, the 60 each bring two friends, then that number will climb to 180, a significant number on a campus of roughly 1,100.
I, and many others, are firm believers in the thought that this campus is a family. It’s time now that we act like one. If we truly are a family, then we must recognize that these are our sisters and our brothers who are going through things that we couldn’t begin to imagine. It’s up to all of us to let them know that this is a safe campus, that they will be cared for and that resources are available to help them. This isn’t an issue that will be solved in a day, but with perseverance and firm belief that it can be solved, we will press forward into the night.