People of the AVA on Sexual Assault Awareness Month

The Anti-Violence Alliance works hard to inform the Ferris community

The Anti-Violence Alliance is committed to making campus a safer place for every- one. In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the AVA prepared eight events to shed light on relationship violence.

Student peer educator and staff lead Erin Davis develops programs and workshops with the goal of informing the Ferris commu- nity.

“The Anti-Violence Alliance is attempting to change the culture surrounding interper-

sonal violence by increasing awareness and education through these programs and re- sources,” Davis said. “So, making students more aware of the harm that is being per- petrated and empowering them as active bystanders.”

One of the most prevalent topics in SAAM events is understanding consent. On Tues- day, the AVA hosted a virtual event called Coffee and Consent. This event aimed to foster a safe and productive conversation between the AVA and participants, followed by a game of Consent Bingo.

“Promoting consent is about promoting healthy relationships and creating a com- fortable environment where each person can express what they want and need,” Davis said. “So, consent takes into account verbal cues and what someone doesn’t say. And I wish that that was more widely under- stood.”

Davis recalls being particularly moved by a 5-Star event featuring sexual assault sur- vivor Kalimah Johnson. Johnson is also the founder of Sexual Assault Services for Holis- tic Healing and Awareness in Detroit.

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“I’m so grateful that we brought Kalimah because she made me aware of the fact that there is always more to learn, that there are always going to be communities within interpersonal violence that are marginalized in other ways,” Davis said. “We should be intersectional in everything that we do, and inclusive and everything that we do with the AVA.”

After being encouraged by Violence Prevention coordinator Raven Hills, staff assistant Nia Goins took it upon herself to include marginalized voices in the conversation about sexual assault.

“I really had a hard time speaking out. And then when I joined the Anti-Violence Alliance, I kind of re- alized that if you don’t speak out, then nobody else is going to,” Goins said.

Last Wednesday, Goins presented a workshop enti- tled Engaging the Black Community in Sexual Assault Prevention. She focused on historical stereotypes and how they feed modern-day victimization of Black men and women.

These historical tropes include the Jezebel stereo- type and the brute caricature. Ferris’ Jim Crowe Muse- um of Racist Memorabilia defines Jezebel as the sig- nified name for Black women that have been unfairly portrayed as “innately promiscuous, even predatory.” This was used in stark contrast to the modest and sex- ually pure portrayal of white women, a demographic that was taught to fear Black men by use of the brute caricature.

Goins understands how difficult it can be to speak about racism and sexual violence to people with vary- ing experience with either. This encourages her to use inclusive language, hoping her audience is able and willing to empathize with other communities.

“People will feel more comfortable talking about [sexual assault] if they felt that other people had the same opinions as they do,” Goins said. “But also that they have the language to have those conversations in a way that they felt wouldn’t cause people harm,” Goins said.

Goins believes in the importance of discussing the root causes of intimate partner violence and rape culture, stating “you can’t stop the big things without stopping the little things.” These little things include misogynistic humor and sending unsolicited nude photos to women.

“You have to prevent those small things from hap- pening. You have to break down that within your small social circles in your day-to-day life to kind of make those other big things like sexual assault and rape and child molestation go away,” Goins said.

This is a responsibility that Goins passes along to the entire Ferris community and beyond, explaining that neutrality is not a valid stance on sexual assault.

“Everybody needs to show solidarity for those vic- tims because showing solidarity for them means that you’re not showing solidarity for offenders and perpe- trators,” Goins said.

In the fall of 2021, Goins will be stepping into Davis’ position as the co-student lead alongside staff assis- tant Sydney Mingori.

Mingori prepared and presented an event for the AVA last Monday entitled Sexual Assault in Pop Cul- ture. This event highlighted patterns of unhealthy rela- tionships featured in movies and TV shows including “Twilight” and “Stranger Things.”

“We talked about power and control between abus- ers and the victims and how abusers use tactics to gain control over the victim. And they do it because they believe that they have the right,” Mingori said.

Some tactics, Mingori believes, have been so nor- malized that audience members do not even notice them without taking a closer look. When discussing the dynamic between “Stranger Things” characters Joyce Byars and Jim Hopper, many people were dis- appointed.

“[The audience] was like ‘oh, I never realized that he, you know, yells at her all the time and he doesn’t listen to her ever’ and they loved them so much as a couple, they didn’t realize how awful he actually was to her,” Mingori said.

Despite this, Mingori still believes that people can enjoy movies and TV shows that feature unhealthy dy- namics if the relationship is viewed critically and never idolized.

The next TV show watch party will take place at 6 pm on April 21 and feature an episode of “Grey’s Anat- omy.”

“We’re going to be showing an episode from it that really goes into greater lengths about tests that you have to do for sexual assault, so I’m really looking for- ward to this month and I’d be happy to have people come in,” Mingori said.

For more information about SAAM events, visit the AVA profile on Bulldog Connect.