BSA and Sigma Gamma Rho host community discussion on sexual assault and rape culture

Conversation guided by stories of students’ experiences at U.Va.

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Taylor Lamb, a fourth-year College student and Sigma Gamma Rho President, moderated the conversation Monday. 

Callie Collins | Cavalier Daily

The Black Student Alliance and Theta Lambda Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority co-sponsored a community discussion on sexual assault and rape culture in the University’s black community during a BSA general body meeting Monday. Taylor Lamb, a fourth-year College student and Sigma Gamma Rho president, moderated the conversation with assistance from Ciara Blackston, a third-year College student and BSA membership chair.

In order to focus the discussion on real problems black students at the University face, real experiences students submitted through an anonymous form prior to the event were used to guide the conversation.

Lamb said her motivation for Monday’s event was the Breaking the Silence march in December where she advocated for black men to join the dialogue on sexual assault awareness and prevention.

“I spoke at the march against sexual assault that happened in December, Breaking the Silence, and my speech was about black men showing up for black women in this conversation,” Lamb said. “Wes [Gobar] was the only black man there.” 

Wes Gobar is a fourth-year College student and president of BSA. He and Lamb were in correspondence after the march, and decided to organize a similar event during a BSA general body meeting.

Gobar stressed that the conversation is not over, and that the next steps fell to the men.

“For men in leadership and men in general we have platforms, and it’s important to use them, and this is a perfect example of that,” Gobar said in an interview. “More stuff like this needs to happen … just men using their platform to give voice to these issues.”

Lamb engaged the attendees directly concerning their thoughts on what “rape culture” involves. In particular, there was confusion around situations that don’t fall under the traditional categories of sexual assault.

Lamb also gave background to the anti-sexual assault movement on social media, #MeToo. Lamb talked about a youth worker and activist named Tarana Burke, who founded Just Be Inc., a center devoted specifically to young women of color in cases of sexual trauma and assault recovery. Burke created the Me Too campaign. 

In her presentation, Lamb shared a quote of Burke’s from her time serving young women, “These women are able to not just share their shame but to put the shame where it belongs: on the perpetrator.”

In an interview with The Cavalier Daily, Lamb said she thinks it is critical for people to understand the woman who started the #MeToo movement.

“It felt really important for us to mention because now everyone knows #MeToo, but people don’t know the woman behind it,” Lamb said in an interview with The Cavalier Daily.

Throughout the event, many male students participated in the discussion and raised questions on issues they considered confusing, including definitions of coercion and assuming sexual availability.

Lamb also stressed the importance of women speaking up for themselves in situations they feel uncomfortable in, even with close friends or a long-term significant other. At one point during the presentation, Lamb asked if any women in the room had turned down a guy asking to dance and received an unfavorable response from him. All of the women in the room raised their hand.

“Part of the rape culture is that women feel like we’ll be judged.” Lamb said. “I understand the impetus behind that, but it’s setting a dangerous precedent.”

Audience members engaged in telling some of their own stories and opinions on how to solve problems related to sexual assault in the University community.

“I’ve come to a realization for life in general that there’s no such thing as overreacting” one audience member said, in the context of a person’s story that was being discussed by the group.

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