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Not On My Campus: Presentation aims to debunk myths about sexual assault

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Denise Kontras speaks at the Not On My Campus event held by Ohio State's Mortarboard honor society on Nov. 12. Credit: Deepti Hossain | Lantern Reporter

Denise Kontras speaks at the Not On My Campus event held by Ohio State’s Mortarboard honors society on Nov. 12. Credit: Deepti Hossain | Lantern Reporter

From hurting to healing, the “Not On My Campus” presentation, held Saturday by Ohio State’s Mortar Board honors society, discussed sexual assault on campus.

“This is an issue that is prevalent and impacts everyone,” said Abby Zalenski, a fourth-year in neuroscience and president of Mortar Board. “A change in dating and rape culture starts with us, and we have the power to make a difference when we are educated and informed.”

Guest speaker Denise Kontras and OneLove OSU members spoke at the presentation, both aiming to end the silence surrounding sexual assault and prevent domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence.

“It’s not enough to just hope that everything will to be okay, we need to band together and actively fight against abuse.” — Maya Prabhu, fourth-year in neuroscience

Kontras walked through different myths she said have formed around sexual assault, drawing from her forthcoming book, “It’s Not Over When You Leave: 7 Truths of Domestic Violence.”

“It’s almost unthinkable that sexual violence has reached an epidemic proportions,” Kontras said. “In college campuses, one in five women and one in sixteen men are sexually assaulted.”

During the presentation, Kontras said that society often blames or judges the victim for being assaulted.

“Sometimes victims think that because they were drunk, what happened was their fault,” she said. “If it’s not consensual, it’s criminal. If you are drunk, high or asleep, that is not consent. If you are afraid to say no, that is not consent.”

Maya Prabhu, a fourth-year in neuroscience, said she attended the event with the hope that the attitudes surrounding sexual assault will change at OSU.

“It’s not enough to just hope that everything will to be okay, we need to band together and actively fight against abuse,” Prabhu said. “Only when we stand united and protect each other can we come together as a school and say that sexual abuse is ‘not on my campus.’”

Unlike the idea that abusers are hiding in ski masks behind bushes, college predators can be anyone: the funny guy in class, the quiet intellectual in a study group or an interesting coworker, Kontras said.

“There’s a serious misconception that college predators are somehow different from rapists who are incarcerated,” she said. “This misguided notion presumes that they are basically decent guys who would never do such a thing if it weren’t for too much alcohol and too little communication.”

Research shows otherwise, Kontras said.

“The majority of rapists on campus are violent, serial predators. Most college rapists have committed six to seven rapes,” she said.

Kontras said there is a basic fundamental truth to remember: Whether abuse comes from an intimate partner relationship or is a one-time incident, it “is intentional, and is caused by the batterer’s decision to hurt you.”

OneLove at OSU expanded on Kontras’ talk through its “Escalation Workshop,” a short film depicting the ways an abusive relationship is seemingly normal. The story follows Chad and Paige, a white, heterosexual, college-aged couple who kiss at concerts, take goofy photos and send each other romantic texts.

However, subtle acts of control — such as Chad forcefully pushing Paige onto her bed, asking her to miss her group project meeting and then having sex with her — slowly worsen. The film ends with Paige’s death, at the hands of Chad.

Although it was a fictional film, domestic violence is a real public health concern, Kontras said.

Victims of domestic abuse are more likely to have heart disease, stroke and asthma, Kontras said. Medical conditions like diabetes, depression and irritable bowel syndrome, hyper-anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder stay with survivors beyond the time the abuse has stopped.

Kontras advised people to set boundaries in relationships and to think about the myth that life is like a fairytale, in which a knight in shining armor will rescue you.

“Happy endings are achievable, but not in a relationship where you are disrespected,” Kontras said.  

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