By: Ashley de Sampaio Ferraz, Staff Writer
Sarojini Schutt, a community educator visited Towson University to speak to students and spark conversation about rape culture and gender based violence last Tuesday.
Schutt, who works for Turnaround Inc., a Baltimore-based nonprofit dedicated to helping individuals that are suffering from domestic violence, sexual assault/abuse, and sex trafficking, explained what rape culture is and how students can help stop the spread of sexual violence in today’s society.
“[Rape culture is] a phrase used to describe a society in which rape is common and acts that might contribute to rape go unchallenged,” said Schutt.
She explained that rape culture doesn’t mean that rape is legal, or even approved, but instead is normalized or excused through media and societal norms.
“The things we say, the things we do, the things we read and see are fueling this murder, this rape, this brutality,” she added.
Schutt also provided students with some interesting statistics about rape and sexual violence.
“Out of every 1,000 sexual assaults, 995 perpetrators will walk free,” Schutt said. “230 of these sexual assaults are reported to the police, 46 reports lead to arrests, nine cases get referred to prosecutors, five cases will lead to a felony conviction, and 4.6 rapists will get incarcerated.”
Elexzene Plain, a sophomore pre-nursing major, said that she was surprised to learn how often minority women are targeted for acts of sexual violence.
“One thing that really stuck out was the percentages of ethnic and racial groups that had been sexually assaulted in their lives,” Plain said. “The fact that those populations are [about] 10 and 12% of the U.S. population, and then their percentage doubles for being sexually assaulted is a really big thing.”
Schutt provided students with tools and tips to not only help their friends who have been subjected to sexual violence, but also to make a change in their community as a whole.
“Hold your friends accountable and speak out when someone says something you don’t like,” Schutt said. “Educate yourself.”
One way students at Towson University are trying to impact their community is through adopting the “It’s On Us” initiative. Jessica Kapoor, SGA’s Director of Health and Wellness, explained what this social movement is and how it came to Towson.
“‘It’s On Us’ is a social movement that was created by the Obama/Biden administration and the White House Council on Women and Girls to raise awareness and fight against sexual assault on college campuses for both men and women,” Kapoor said. “We decided to start a chapter of this at Towson University as an initiative under SGA’s Department of Health and Wellness to promote the culture of consent, bystander intervention and survivor support within Towson’s community.”
Kapoor also shared that she believes the Towson Community benefits from events such as this one, as it provides an opportunity for students to educate themselves.
“I do believe there is a population at Towson University that is educated on topics spoken on by Sarojini Schutt, but I do believe that education can be limited,” Kapoor said. “Many students attending expressed concern [towards these] real-life statistics in which they were not aware of and surprised about, which is why the SGA strives to create a conversation about topics that are important to our community.”
Education definitely plays a key part in eradicating rape culture. Alexis Story, a junior Health Education major, said that for this issue to be solved the culture of Towson’s campus as a whole would have to change.
“Events like this are important because we need to change the culture of our campus,” Story said. “For people to feel comfortable and safe and normal doing things that are bad, like rape and sexual violence and stuff like that, we need to change our culture. We need to learn how to change the culture; and first we need to know what is wrong, and what is right.”
The Towson University Health and Counseling Center offers resources for students who are victims of sexual violence, including assistance in taking judicial action. They have also organized an “I’m a Survivor” support group, and offer free individual and group counseling.
For those looking to learn more about sexual violence and violence prevention, the Sexual Harrassment and Assault Prevention Education committee (SHAPE) hosts various programs such as bystander intervention, consent, and sexual violence and substance abuse workshops throughout the semester.
TU also has a Women Resources Program which serves as a safe space for women of all ages, physical conditions, sexual identities, spiritual beliefs, and ethnic origins.