Posted by: lcowie | September 23, 2008

Sexual Assault Awareness

Resident Student Association opens Elon’s Sexual Assault Awareness Week

CrossRoads among speakers to provide assault services and defenses

by Lesley Cowie

Senior Brittany Werts participates in a skit about body language.

Senior Brittany Werts participates in a demonstration about body language.

Many students take advantage of the health services at the R.N. Ellington Health and Counseling Center. They go to get shots, blood tests, and prescriptions for their common colds. Students use the counseling department on a less frequent scale – at least that is what we think.

Elon works closely with CrossRoads, Burlington’s sexual assault response and resource center, to counsel students on their experiences. CrossRoads offers free sexual assault services and allows its users to remain anonymous.

Sexual Assault Awareness Week is Sept. 22-26. To kick off the week, RSA brought Mandy McGill, from CrossRoads, and Danny Kressler, from Angels with Attitude, to speak to a group of students.

The Secret Life of CrossRoads

McGill opened the discussion by explaining the history of CrossRoads. She explained that a rape in Alamance County in 1976 provoked the beginnings of CrossRoads. The group started as a 24-hour crisis line, operated by 10-15 women.

The group, which had been maintained by volunteers, has expanded and developed into an established organization. Some of the paid positions include a child therapist, adult advocate, and three child advocates.

“Since we have three child advocates, that tells you most of our issues concern children,” McGill said.

McGill described the types of activities the therapist engages in with the children. She noted that the therapist often plays games with the children, in order to establish trust.

“We don’t force the children to talk about it,” McGill said. “We give the power back to them, after it’s been taken from them. When they are ready to talk about their experience, they will.”

Although these strategies appear quite universal, CrossRoads also takes part in unique tactics, such as “killing the bad guy.” Our therapist, McGill said, allows the children to pretend kill the bad person who hurt them.

“It empowers that child to feel like they are protecting themselves from that person,” McGill said.

The techniques employed by CrossRoads must be working; the organization recently opened a medical component to its office. Rather than going to the hospital for a rape kit, assault victims may enter through a side door of CrossRoads and use the medical component.

“The room is painted blue with fish on the wall, so it’s kid-friendly,” McGill said. “It’s a big step for Alamance County to recognize our need for a hospital.”

McGill went on to say that CrossRoads still uses the 24-hour crisis line that it was founded on. She described it as a “true” crisis line, available at all hours of the day.

McGill also noted that assault services are never-ending to clients. There is no cap as to how long you can receive our services, McGill said. If it takes six years for you to get well, she said, that’s fine.

Attitude Stops Attackers

Following McGill’s speech, RSA’s president, senior Jill Medhus, introduced Danny Kessler. Kessler, a representative for Angels with Attitude, spoke to the students and congratulated them for attending. The small audience, he said, was to be expected. People do not want to hear about sexual assault, Kessler said. The message must be spread to other people, he said.

“After what I teach you, it’s going to change your mind set,” Kessler said. “You’re going to feel confident and empowered. Transfer that knowledge to your friend, to your roommate.”

Kessler’s presentation began with two short demonstrations by senior Brittany Werts. Kessler asked Werts to walk across the room following two sets of instructions. During the first demonstration, Werts buried her nose in her cell phone and never looked up. In the second demonstration, Werts impatiently surveyed her surroundings and quickly glanced at her watch.

Danny Kessler describes strategies for dissuading suspicious characters from approaching.

Danny Kessler describes strategies for dissuading suspicious characters from approaching.

Kessler explained that the first demonstration set the scene for a potential assault because Werts was not paying attention to her surroundings.

“It [Texting] takes you away from the present moment,” Kessler said. “It’s fine when you’re in a comfortable environment, but when you are walking in downtown Raleigh, that’s when you need to be a little more hyper-aware. You don’t know where the dead areas are. Look around and then send the text message.”

To reduce the risk of getting attacked, women should always pay attention to their surroundings. Women have better peripheral vision than men do, Kessler said. When you are text messaging, he said, you will not notice the wide angle view.

Another advantage that women possess over men is intuition. Women are able to read situations, Kessler said, and notice subtleties in what is going on.

“Intuition is knowing something but not knowing why you know it,” he said. “It’s another thing that women have that is the great equalizer to male strength.”

Prepare for the Worst

Kessler provided a mixture of hypothetical and real situations in which intuition would have played a vital role. He also explained the importance of body language, from assessing it to utilizing it as a dissuasive tool.

“You can display your body language in such a way that you intimidate people by the way you talk and the way you move,” Kessler said. “They [Predators] don’t want to mess with someone who’s going to give them a problem. They want someone who will cooperate. Even if you are submissive by nature, you can fake putting on a mean attitude to dissuade someone from approaching you.”

Another important tip is to set verbal boundaries and to use verbal self-defense. Kessler noted that predators do not want to be the center of attention. In order to combat their fear, it is important to make a scene and scream if an attack is in progress. You make that person the center of attention, Kessler said, and they will stop in their tracks.

Students created fictional assault plots and acted out their learned defenses.

The last bit of advice from Kessler was to always search for improvised weapons. No matter where you are, Kessler said, you can find improvised weapons. The trick is to think about what is in your dorm room, your purse, he said.

“Think about what they try to take away from you at the airport,” Kessler said. “There’s a lot of things they take away that can be used as a weapon.”

Kessler concluded his lecture with a short note on tasers. What’s good about tasers, he said, is that they work, but they don’t do any serious, long-term harm to the person. A taser will stop a person in their tracks.

“It’s something to consider, depending on the lifestyle that you live,” Kessler said. “If you’re going to be working in the city after you graduate, it might be something to consider.”

Kessler gave instructions on where females could purchase tasers, claiming that it is best to purchase a taser from someone who can explain how to use it. If you look up taser dealers, he said, you should be able to find out. There are definitely taser dealers around here, he said.

Freshman Margaux Lepretre explains why she feels safe and confident in her surroundings.

To conclude his presentation, Kessler enlisted four pairs of volunteers to perform realistic skits. The purpose of these skits was to demonstrate learned strategies for avoiding potentially dangerous situations. Following the four skits, the students remaining in the audience voted for their favorite skit. The winners won two pink Angels with Attitude t-shirts.

RSA will be sponsoring events every day this week to cause awareness and support for sexual assault. The schedule is as follows:

  • Sept. 23: Banner making and virtual bar, 5 pm in Moseley 215
  • Sept. 24: Take Back The Night, 8 pm in The Zone
  • Sept. 25: “Consent is Sexy” Survival Bingo, 10:10 pm in McKinnon


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