“It’s On Us” week kicks off with presentation on sexual assault

No Zebras and More, a sexual aggression consultant and advocacy group, gave two presentations on interpersonal violence to launch the college’s “It’s On Us” week of action — an effort to educate students about sexual assault and prevention.

The presentation, titled “No Zebras, No Excuses,” included brief theatrical accounts that illustrated what different types of interpersonal violence look like, including harassment, sexual assault, stalking, and inter-relational violence.

The first presentation, held in Weinstock Lecture Hall on March 30, drew a crowd of over 100 students, according to Liz Grubb, the coordinator of York College’s sexual assault education and programs. The second presentation was held March 31.

The title “No Zebras, No Excuses” is a metaphor for bystanders, according to speaker Braden Thompson, one of several members who leads the presentation at universities, colleges, and military bases. The name was inspired by nature shows, which often depict situations where a herd of zebras is attacked by a predator, like a lion. The rest of the zebras scatter, allowing one helpless victim to be consumed.

The point of the metaphor, according to Thompson, is that humans are not like zebras. There is no excuse for not intervening.

The presentation at first used humor to illustrate common misconceptions about sexual assault, then moved into more serious accounts of what these situations look like. Between theatrical scenes, Thomspon and co-presenter Alyx Newton would break down the events and educate the audience on how to intervene.

“Intervening, doing something, is always better than doing nothing,” said Thompson.

Thompson and Newton asked the audience to close their eyes and visualize the four most important women in their lives and revealed the statistic that one in four women will be a victim of sexual assault in their life time.

Many never speak up, according to Newton, which makes it even more important for somebody to speak up if they witness a situation that looks like sexual assault happening.

The three steps for bystander intervention are to notice, interpret, and act, said Thomspon. We can choose to do nothing, or we can choose to protect somebody’s one in four.

“It’s easy to hide behind the excuse that harassment is just a joke,” said Newton. She explained that often, the joke is only funny to the person or people making it — to the recipient it is threatening and intimidating.

The presentation covered the steps that lead to rape, and how many times there is a point where at least one person is aware of what is happening, and usually doesn’t speak up. Victims are often incapacitated by alcohol or drugs, either willingly or unwillingly, and are unable to speak for themselves.

“We need to be held to a higher standard where ‘yes’ is the only thing that means ‘yes,’” said Newton.

There is a confusion in our society between responsibility and judgement, said Thompson. Victims of sexual assault are often blamed for the way they dressed or the alcohol they consumed leading up to the event. The predator is often not held responsible for their actions, and instead blame is transferred to the victim for their moment of poor judgement.

“We live in a society where sexual assault is seen as a lesser crime,” Thompson said.

This makes it very important for individuals to begin condemning offensive statements. Even something as small as not laughing at an offensive joke can make a difference, according to Thompson.

The pair encouraged the audience to utilize all the resources that York College and community provides to victims and advocates against of sexual assault, such as counseling and education services.

Thompson and Newton received advocacy training as undergraduates at Central Michigan University, where the No Zebras and More program was initially founded. The group now consists of several members who act in the theatrical demonstrations as well as travel the world to present them.

Various events for “It’s On Us” week of action will be held throughout campus from Mon., April 3 through Fri., April 7.

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