A nonprofit support and service organization called the Crime Victims Council of the Lehigh Valley facilitated two events on Lehigh’s campus regarding alcohol, consent and rape culture.
Rachel Knoblauch, an outreach worker for the council, said the events, which took place on Oct. 17 and Oct. 24, were planned especially for first-year students to learn more about rape culture and to fulfill 5×10 credits required by the university. The 5×10 program is a series for first-years to learn more about and connect with Lehigh.
“We did a previous (5×10) on alcohol and consent, where we talked more about sexual violence and how society portrays that,” Knoblauch said. “We’re trying to create a more supporting environment together.”
Genevieve Powell, ‘25, a member of Break the Silence said these presentations are a good way to get freshmen involved and discussing these important topics.
“The fact that we offer events like this now is nice because people can be educated on these important topics early in their Lehigh careers,” Powell said. “We hope it makes people more aware of what’s going on.”
Knoblauch’s presentation touched on topics including the normalization of rape culture, victim blaming, preventative measures, consent, media portrayal and the ways society believes different genders should behave.
Powell said discussing rape culture with first-year students is important because it is something that is present on college campuses across the country, and it will allow students to think more about their actions and speech to create a safer environment.
“I learned that rape culture is a very important thing to become more aware about,” Layla Nyabiosi, ‘26, said. “It can happen to anyone at any time. … It’s important to know just (to) be careful.”
Knoblauch said there is a “rape culture pyramid,” which organizes actions related to rape culture by severity, with the most severe at the top.
Locker room talk and catcalling are actions at the bottom of the pyramid while rape and drugging are at the top. The items on the bottom of the pyramid are usually seen as harmless while the items at the top are crimes, Knoblauch said.
Knoblauch said the pyramid shows the connection between all the actions, which Powell thinks Break the Silence covers well.
“One of the most important things we touch on at (Break the Silence) is the specifics of rape culture and how it leads up to the bigger things like rape and assault,” Powell said. “We really need to touch on the bottom of the pyramid — the things we allow without thinking.”
Knoblauch said she hopes she makes an impact on students on a personal level that will work its way up to administrators. She said she wishes she could do more with faculty and the greater Lehigh Valley community.
The Crime Victims Council partners with universities across the Lehigh Valley and organizations such as Turning Point, Bloom for Women and Valley Against Sex Trafficking.
In addition to these events, the council offers free confidential services for anyone impacted by crime, including counseling; a 24-hour hotline; police, hospital and court accompaniment; and outreach and community involvement.
After attending events on campus, Nyabiosi said she is interested in making a difference on campus by joining Break the Silence.
Powell said the club’s current new member class is the largest the organization has ever seen.
“I hope the students take this information and make small steps along the way,” Knoblauch said. “I hope they have that little flag in the back of their head where they start to hear something or see something and they say, ‘Hey, this isn’t okay.’”
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