Professor from Occidental College talks about ending rape on college campuses

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Danielle Dirks, an assistant professor of sociology at Occidental College, came to Lehigh on Tuesday to lead a discussion on the the New Campus Anti-Rape Movement, which began when survivors of campus sexual violence requested federal safeguards to be placed on college campuses.

“This movement is unique from previous movements because it has allowed for connective technologies, such as social media, for communication of ideas instead of solely relying on the mass media,” Dirks said.

Students from a number of colleges took to social media to share their support for the survivors and participating in internet activism, creating what Dirks calls a “new media.”

“Because of network activism, we’re in a new moment where students across the United States are protesting against this,” she said.

Dirks went into detail on the “rape culture” faced by numerous college campuses across the country, including statistics showing that one in five college women and 6 percent of college men will face sexual assault.

“We know college is one site where rape culture runs rampant, and there’s something that needs to be done about it. It becomes hard to make it through daily life, and students need help,” said Dirks.

Students who attended the talk gave feedback on their reactions to witnessing such a transformation in the fight for campus sexual assault awareness.

“I feel pretty safe walking around campus, which is why I was kind of surprised to hear some of the statistics,” Stutti Tilwa, ’18, said. “I think it’s a really good idea for students to use Facebook and Twitter for a good cause that effects so many people on college campuses.”

Others admired the stories of victims who spoke out against rape. One victim Dirks discussed was a student from Tufts University named Wagatwe Wanjuki. She began a campaign on twitter using the hashtag #SurvivorPrivilege.

“I really liked hearing about Wagatwe’s bravery and the fact that she took a stand against her school after they failed to deal with her attack in an appropriate way,” Kathryn Angevine, ’18, said. “I think she really inspired other victims and activists to stand up for themselves and for others.”

Though Dirks’s account of the “new media” involved in the New Campus Anti-Rape Movement included a multitude of colleges and the stories of their students, she also made the speech more personal to Lehigh by discussing the “Clery Act.”

This act originated from the rape and murder of Lehigh student Jeanne Cleary in Stoughton house in the Centennial II complex in 1986.

“The Clery Act has reinforced your rights as college students,” Dirks said. “Colleges have to make record of all crimes so you’re aware of possible threats you may face on campus.

Marlene Williams, an attendee of the speech who is familiar with Dirks’s work, was affected most from this part of the talk.

“I think it’s just a reminder that these kinds of incidents can occur anywhere and students just need to remember to protect themselves and those they are close to,” Williams said. “While the fight against campus assaults has come a long way, it is far from over.”

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