Student Panelists “Respond to Violence” through Advocacy

November 09, 2015

Jessica Love Jordan and Mychael Vanarsdale are the student panelists for “Respond to Violence” on Thursday, November 12 at 6-7 p.m. in Prairie Place’s Great Hall.

Jessica Love Jordan (L) and Mychael Vanarsdale (R) are the student panelists for “Respond to Violence” on Thursday, November 12 at 6-7 p.m. in Prairie Place’s Great Hall.

There are no “gray areas.” Not when it comes to consent. And not when it comes to sexual assault. The “Rape Culture” on college campuses has become a national news story, and GSU is taking proactive efforts to educate students about campus violence and sexual assault. Two GSU students will be part of a panel discussion on Thursday, November 12 that they hope will educate their classmates and help them avoid sexual assault situations.

The panel is part of the “Respond to Violence” project in partnership with GSU's Advocating for Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP) team, the Digital Media Production department and the "It's On Us" national campaign. Respond to Violence is an on-going multi-media initiative created in 2012 by Media Studies Professor Yevette Brown which is now housed in the Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service. It is part of the Center’s continuing efforts to help students become fully engaged in their civic responsibility. By discussing issues such as campus and community violence, students become more aware of what they can do to advocate and develop ideas for change.

GSU Student Senate President Mychael Vanarsdale and Jessica Love Jordan, an MHS, Addiction Studies student are the panelists who believe helping students make better decisions will make the campus safer for everyone.

Love Jordan has been working as an advocate with the YWCA in Chicago Heights for a year and has taken training courses that made her want to get involved with the Respond to Violence program. “Learning about the rape culture that exists throughout the U.S., especially on college campuses, made me want to get involved. Having the opportunity to be on a panel that’s saying ‘hey, this is an issue, here’s what you can do to help,’ is important. I want to get other people to see what I’ve seen as an advocate.”

Being an advocate, she said, can mean many things, including knowing what to do when you see an incident occurring. “Be more conscious of things and be willing to speak up if there’s something wrong. ‘If you see something, say something’ definitely applies here. I feel people underestimate the power they have to make a difference, when it can be as simple as seeing somebody home or making sure somebody’s OK. That’s what I would like people to walk away with, knowing that they can help others. Even if they are small things, they can make a difference.”

Vanarsdale is hoping the panel can inform GSU’s younger students about what is and is not proper behavior. “Understanding the rape culture and sexual assault is the first step toward eliminating them. Now that we have moved to being a four-year institution, the younger students really need this information because they are unaware of the statistical findings that impact most college campuses. These are trends that could happen here if we don’t inform our students now. To eliminate potential sexual assaults, it’s best to be informed now before it ever gets out of hand,” he said.

The panel will take place at Prairie Place’s Great Hall, a venue chosen to enhance the opportunity for its residents to happen upon it. “We want people going to the C-Store to stop by and check it out. We know that’s how a lot of activity happens at Prairie Place,” VanArsdale said. In addition to Love Jordan and VanArsdale, the discussion participants will include another advocate from the YWCA as well as a rape survivor.

Love Jordan is appreciative of the university’s community partnership with the YWCA on the issue of campus violence prevention. “It absolutely shows that GSU is being proactive about this issue. This initiative and all the work GSU has done with Title IX are pretty good examples of how serious they are taking it. There are a lot of universities that are kind of slow embracing Title IX and that is when things get swept under the rug, but GSU forming this partnership and saying we’re going to be serious about this, makes me feel a lot better as a student,” she said.

Love Jordan would like to see more people on campus become active for the cause of eliminating campus violence. “You see the YouTube videos where athletes are speaking out against sexual assault and those are very effective. I think that would have a big impact at GSU as well.”

She said the YWCA is always looking for volunteers. They provide Rape Crisis Hotlines, which offers survivors of sexual assault/abuse and their significant others immediate support, crisis intervention and referrals for the city of Chicago and surrounding suburbs, and also provides 24-hour medical and criminal justice services to survivors of sexual assault and sexual abuse.

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