Sexual Assault | Web Update

Program encourages open communication about sexual assault

Published: February 19, 2014, 10:55 pm ET
News Editor

Every two minutes, someone is sexually assaulted. After Kelly Addington, a rape survivor and educator, was raped in her senior year of college, she and her friend Becca Tieder made it their mission to educate as many people as they could about sexual assault.

Addington and Tieder spoke as part of a program called “Let’s Talk About ‘IT,’” which Panhellenic Council brought to campus Monday evening. Addington and Tieder also co-founded the nonprofit organization One Student.

Alex Wineholt, vice president of Panhellenic programming, said the group wanted to bring Addington and Tieder to campus to empower men and women to transform University of Richmond’s campus culture.

“Sexual assault is a growing issue on our campus,” Wineholt said, “and we believe that raising awareness will move towards the goal of preventing these occurrences and making UR a safer campus.”

By using Addington’s own experience as a backdrop, the talk focused on sexual empowerment and gender identities. Tieder said part of their goal was to smash gender stereotypes and get their audience to understand what being “sexually empowered” meant.

“We want to start a dialogue,” Tieder said, “and we use our friendship as a platform, because for us, everything comes back to that.”

The talk emphasized the power of communication between partners, including consensual partners. Tieder said instead of focusing on “no means no,” we needed to first celebrate the “yes means yes” relationships.

She said once we, as a community, were more comfortable discussing consensual sex, we would create an environment in which sexual assault survivors could share their stories.

Tieder said phrases such as “hitting that,” “screwing” and “banging” created a negative, scary connotation of sex and discouraged healthy communication about it.

“I want you to come in with a condom and smile,” Tieder said, “not a haz-mat [suit] and a hard hat.”

She said part of creating open communication was eliminating what she called the “a.m.-p.m. mindset.” This is the idea that during the day, men and women don’t talk about sex, but at night, under the influence of alcohol, are very encouraging of it.

Katy Norfleet, president of Panhellenic, said the talk had been particularly applicable to Richmond’s campus because it encouraged men and women to collaborate to address this issue. “As a community, Richmond men and Westhampton women need to foster a better sense of community to create a zero-tolerance mindset,” Norfleet said.

Addington and Tieder listed three things audience members could do to help reduce and eliminate sexual assault on Richmond’s campus.

First, they said everyone should get educated so they could inform. They said everyone should know which campus resources to contact and how to react if they or a friend were sexually assaulted.

Second, they said to address the culture through sexual empowerment and eliminating negative language. And last, they said to not be afraid to create your own solution, and do what works best for you in your life.

Addington said the motto they had come up with for themselves was: “Life is best when lived without fear, but with awareness.”


Contact staff writer Katie Evans at katie.evans@richmond.edu

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