1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men is a statistic that most students are undoubtedly familiar with. It does not take much to admit that rape and sexual assault are transnational problems, especially across college campuses. The question is, however, in what ways can this be stopped? Although it is down to the will of the individual, there is also accountability at a societal level; we must ask ourselves how as a society we may be fueling a certain problem. In this case, the problem is sexual violence.
Rape culture can take on obvious or discrete forms. It stems from an environmental rhetoric which directly or indirectly normalizes sexual violence by trivializing the issue and diverting blame from the perpetrator. It is prevalent through the media, dress codes, popular culture, and is even fueled by negligence to hold perpetrators legally accountable.
An example of the normalization of rape culture is the banners that are commonly hung on off- campus housing during welcome week. While welcome week is a fast-paced and exciting time for both new and returning students, it is also a time susceptible to incidents of sexual violence.
For instance, in 2015 a Virginia fraternity was suspended over a banner displayed with the phrase “Freshman Daughter Drop Off.” Needless to say, such banners are derogatory, offensive, and directly contribute to the normalization of rape culture on college campuses.
Banner Up Ohio State is an initiative brought to campus by Advocates for Women of the World, a student organization founded by seniors Nicole Haddad and Jenny Kim that champions local and global women’s rights. This organization pursues its mission through action-based efforts and awareness campaigns on a variety of issues, such as girls’ education, sexual violence, refugee rights, and much more. Inspired by an Indiana University IFC initiative, whose effort can be viewed here this campaign was brought to Ohio State’s campus to fuel the counter culture. Participating Greek chapters and student organizations are given a banner displaying a message of support for survivors of sexual violence or a phrase depicting the importance of consent. The banners are then displayed on off-campus housing or chapter facilities for the first week of classes.
Advocates for Women of the World realizes that this campaign does not eliminate the overriding problem of sexual violence. We do not intend for it to be a mask for people to hide behind and subsequently ignore what is going on around them. Rather, we strive for it to be an educational and awareness tool, to offer an opportunity for individual self-reflection, and to emphasize that there is no sense of entitlement to other people’s bodies. Most importantly, we hope for this campaign to be an effective display of support for all survivors and to bring to the forefront a battle that so many people have endured. The more we can encourage visibility and conversation surrounding this issue, the more we can progress as a campus and a society.
On behalf of myself and the entire student organization, we sincerely appreciate the support this campaign has received. Between every single share, donation, and participating organization, every individual has been pivotal in bringing our initiative to life, and for that we are extremely grateful.
Karla Haddad is the VP of Finance for Advocates for Women of the World.