On April 2nd, as a part of Women’s Empowerment Week, a panel discussion was held on sexual assault and rape culture on the Lawrence campus. The four-person panel included representatives from the Voices of Men, the Sexual Harassment and Assault Resource Board, a therapist from the Sexual Assault Crisis Center, and an officer from the Appleton Police Department.
Halfway through the discussion, the moderator asked all panelists a question along the lines of, “If you could change one thing about rape culture, what would it be?” After the first three panelists answered, the Appleton police officer implied that some assaults were not as legitimate as others because they did not match the legal definition of rape and thereby wasted law enforcement officers’ time.
One attendee immediately expressed disdain with his response, garnering applause from almost all members of the audience. One community member even lashed out at the officer before storming out. While his answer was certainly controversial, we at The Lawrentian feel that this is an important opportunity to encourage more engaging and educational events so that opposing viewpoints can easily lead to productive conversations. It can be difficult to tread lightly when discussing the heavy topics of sexual assault and rape culture, especially when there is no authoritative perspective on any controversial issue, but candid and civil discussion of opposing viewpoints is one of the cornerstones of any liberal arts eduction.
If we really want to encourage this open discussion, we will have to be prepared. Part of being truly open is treating people with respect regardless of whether their opinions match our own. We at The Lawrentian laud not only students who respectfully opposed him, but also students who approached the officer after the panel to personally engage him in a civil conversation about the thorny nature of sexual assault.
Finally, if we want Appleton and the world at large to feel comfortable participating in a discussion at Lawrence, holding educational forums could encourage the acceptance of a variety of educational backgrounds, lifestyles, opinions, etc. Let’s step out of the Bubble, and move forward.