As part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, groups on campus have been hosting events to open up dialogue among students. On April 1, the Stanford Office of Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse (SARA) hosted an event at White Plaza to show solidarity with survivors of sexual assault and spread awareness of the importance of consent and healthy relationships.
Later in the month, on April 6, SARA and the ASSU joined Stanford’s Women’s Coalition to host a workshop aimed at bringing together campus activists to discuss their work against sexual assault. On what seemed an evening like any other at Stanford’s d.school, students slowly filtered into the quiet and empty space in the atrium. There were whiteboards set up, name tags and markers at hand and a wide selection of snacks. The attendees slowly began to chat and in a matter of minutes the space was filled with students and their lively conversation. They had all gathered to take part of the Sexual Assault Activism Workshop hosted by the Women’s Coalition and d.school facilitators.
The event was the “brain child” of the Women’s Coalition former director of events Taylor Brown ’16, and its purpose was to unite activists on campus working similar issues.
“Stanford teaches everyone to be the captain of their own ship but it’s not always the best at teaching people how to be team players,” Brown said.
Taking a careful look at the different people and organizations involved in sexual assault activism, she noted both similarities and differences in how they approached the issues. That prompted a creation of a space where these similarities and differences could be shared.
“We wanted to create an event that helped people see that landscape,” Brown said. “So they could see the faces of everyone else working on the issue and hopefully by the end of the event people will start to see that there is some overlap, and if they want to connect [they can].”
In regards to a target audience of attendees, current Director of Events Audrey Huynh ’19 explained how the Women’s Coalition reached out to the Stanford student body.
“We started with invitations to students that we know are doing work, specifically regarding sexual assault on campus,” Huynh said. “We reached out to different groups, for example ‘1 in 5’ and the ASSU team. And then from there we opened it up to other students on campus that are interested in getting evolved, whether they are or not is not an issue. This is a space where they can learn more about the different opportunities for how they might be able to get involved.”
Thought was also put into choosing the atrium at the d.school as the space for the event.
“The d.school is known for being able to facilitate difficult conversations,” Brown said. “We didn’t want anything about tonight to be difficult but, that being said it’s a very tough issue so we thought they would be great facilitators.”
Huynh credited the d.school facilitators for organizing the event.
“We’re just here to bring these people together and see where it goes from there,” she said.
The event lasted two hours and focused on getting the attendees better acquainted with each other. Thus, the first few minutes entailed ice breakers lead by the d.school facilitators.
Brown then explained that, “Throughout the night…they’re going to break out into a series of small groups, and those groups will eventually get larger in the hopes to create a really visual map of the space…what groups there are, what people are working on. There are also individuals not associated with a group, so they may see where they might want to jump in.”
The goal of the event was for students to forge collaborations in the realm of sexual assault activism. However, Brown felt that the value of the event was ultimately in the hands of the attendees.
“At the end, we are going to leave it up the participants based on how they feel it went, how they feel they connected with people, what they want to come from [the workshop],” Brown said.
Taking into account the background chatter of the attendees that all but drowned out her voice, Brown deemed the Women’s Coalition’s workshop a success, as it seemed to create a space to foster dialogue among students.
Contact Andrea Villa at acvilla ‘at’ stanford.edu.