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Lay-in intended to spark conversation about sexual assault on college campuses

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Photo by Lórien MacEnulty | Staff Writer

BY LÓRIEN MACENULTY

The events known as “lay-ins” are relatively new means of peaceful protest to advocate for change. One such event occurred on Helmick Commons last Wednesday in response to Brock Turner’s release from jail three months early and the rising rate of sexual violence on college campuses.

“If someone were to ask me to lay down in a pretty populated place for a certain amount of time, even if it was just two minutes, I’d be uncomfortable,” said Zoey Wagner, host of the lay-in. “I’d feel very vulnerable.”

This is exactly why Wagner, a Roosevelt High School senior, organized the protest in conjunction with Drake’s Student Activists for Gender Equality (SAGE). Their unusual behavior was intended to spark a conversation.

“We laid on the ground for 11 minutes because 11 percent of college students are going to experience sexual assault in one way or another,” Wagner said.

The silence sparked the conversation that students at the lay-in think need to happen: how to eliminate sexual violence on college campuses.

The protest was short. Over 60 individuals, young and old, male and female, attended the demonstration in solidarity with the victims of sexual violence.

After the event, participants gathered to reflect on the impact on the community.

“It was strange watching the people try to ignore us,” one activist said after the event.

A few passers-by did divert their attentions elsewhere. Yet many looked at the group of students. Some even stopped at the staff and community member booth for more information.

“It’s something that is so uncomfortable and not something that you see everyday while walking to class,” Wagner said. “Hopefully that’ll start a conversation.”

Wagner referred to her passion for the subject of violence against women.

“Sexual assault is a topic that hits close to home for me, and I wanted to figure out a way to channel all of the anger, the confusion into something progressive,” she said.

Wagner said that the fight against sexual abuse would take more than a localized movement to achieve significant societal change.

“I think it’s a conversation that we need to keep on having in our government, both local and national, and I need it to be a non-partisan discussion that happens,” Wagner said. “In order for us to have a more just and safe society, we need to start off by eliminating rape culture and eliminating this kind of violence against women.”

Student Services Senator Grace Rogers, who was at the demonstration, had a few ideas on how to achieve this goal.

“(Rape culture) is everywhere,” Rogers said. “Anything from something as seemingly major as a guy who yells at you on the street to something goofy like saying, ‘Oh, I’m dressed like a slut,’ or ‘Oh, that test raped me.’

“From the way we use language to the actions we take to the way that we stand up for ourselves, it’s important to think about how the culture is impacting you and how you’re either raising up or deconstructing the culture.”

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