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Out of the Red Zone

It’s been a particularly bad academic year thus far in terms of sexual violence on and around campus. In the past month, three sexual assaults were reported to the UO Police Department alone, and sexual assault prevention advocates say that’s consistent with the “red zone,” the first six weeks of fall term when a high rate of sexual violence is reported. On Nov. 14, acclaimed writer, feminist and spokesperson on sexual assault prevention Jaclyn Friedman will speak in an effort to spread awareness, crack down on sexual violence and help people change what is taking place in their community. 

Joanna Stewart, public relations coordinator of the ASUO Women’s Center, hopes Friedman can be a light at the end of what has been a very troubling tunnel this fall. “There have been accounts at Autzen Stadium, certain places on campus, so I think when we say we are in the red zone we are really in the red zone,” she says. 

The recent spike in sexual assaults is one of many reasons why Stewart and so many others are looking forward to the arrival of Friedman, who will discuss how college students can have safe sexual experiences.

“I’m going to be talking about basically how students can figure out what they want from sexuality and from their sexual interactions in a way that separates them from all the messaging college students get from the media, from their families, from their churches, from their doctors about sex,” Friedman says. “It’s about creating a sexuality that’s about what you need, what your partner needs, as opposed to what everyone is telling you what you should and should not want from sex.”

Friedman will put particular emphasis on “enthusiastic consent,” which, in Stewart’s words, “is about saying yes and really meaning yes.” Friedman will also be talking about Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power & A World Without Rape, a book she co-wrote with Jessica Valenti in 2008, and her first book, What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex & Safety

Friedman also has a great deal of advice for how to prevent sexual assault on college campuses. “We need to create a campus atmosphere where girls aren’t shamed, where girls aren’t called sluts, where girls are treated as full human beings,” she says. 

“What we need to do as a whole, as all of us, in any gender, is to stop accusing rape as behavior,” she says. “All of us need to stop giving this very small portion of the population an excuse to keep doing what they are doing.” 

Friedman will speak at 6:30 pm Wednesday, Nov. 14, in the UO’s Living-Learning Center Performance Hall; the talk is free and open to the public.