April 21, 2014

Cornell Groups Campaign Against Sexual Violence

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In an effort to promote sexual violence awareness, Cornell groups Men Against Sexual Violence and Wingman 101 are sponsoring a White Ribbon Campaign — part of a national campaign to end violence against women — on campus this week.

According to Eric Hunting, residence hall director for Just About Music and the Holland International Living Center and a member of MASV, the campaign began on Monday and will have a table at Ho Plaza every day this week.

As part of the campaign, men will be encouraged to pledge against sexual violence and wear a white ribbon as a sign of support, Hunting said.

“This is a very relevant issue, not just at Cornell, but on every college campus.” —Matthew Laks ’15

According to Matthew Laks ’15, a member of Wingman 101 — a student organization comprised of trained male students that aims to promote discussion on preventing sexual violence — the main goal of the week-long campaign is to bring men around campus together to stand against sexual violence.

“We’re trying to get as many guys as possible to pledge that they won’t just sit around and do nothing when they see an act of violence,” Laks said. “We’re also having guys pledge that they’ll never commit an act of sexual violence or violence against women as well.”

The campaign will provide information on how students can get involved with MASV and Wingman 101, according to Hunting.

Also citing awareness as the primary goal of the campaign, Hunting said he hoped the campaign will help “educate other men in the role men have in [ending] sexual violence.”

“We see this as not solely a women’s issue, but everybody’s issue,” he said.

Hunting added that he believes there is a stigma that sexual violence was “primarily a women’s issue or a women’s concern” and that by having a male support base, the group aimed to change that dynamic.

Similarly, Wingman, which is made up of male students, aims to fight sexual violence by promoting a pro-social bystander model, according to Laks.

“When we talk to men about sexual violence, we’re not speaking to people as if they’re potential perpetrators — that’s not the point at all,” Laks said. “It’s all about spreading awareness of the issue and creating conversation between different groups on campus to really bring light to the problem.”

While this is the first year the White Ribbon Campaign will take place at Cornell, according to Laks, the campaign is an initiative that began in 1991.

The timing of the event varies across the country, but Laks said that MASV — who first had the idea to bring the campaign to Cornell — chose this week in April in order for the White Ribbon Campaign to act as a lead up to Friday’s Take Back the Night rally and march. This march, which begins at Ho Plaza and ends in the Ithaca Commons, is an annual collaboration between Cornell and Ithaca College meant as a stand against violence, according to the University website.

According to Hunting, the White Ribbon Campaign is MASV’s “first big public effort.”

“[The campaign is] a collaborative initiative to promote some pro-social initiatives to change our perception and the culture of sexual violence here at Cornell,” he said.

MASV was originally formed by a group of administrators in Spring 2013 due to a sentiment that “not enough conversation was being led by men on campus around sexual violence,” according to founding member Alexis Santis, who is also a coordinator of traffic safety for Cornell Abroad.

By pairing it with the Take Back the Night March, Laks hopes that the White Ribbon Campaign will grow each year.

“This is a very relevant issue, not just at Cornell, but on every college campus,” he said.