Author: Tara Teets
Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, or PAAR, will be sending team members from both their prevention and crisis intervention departments to Chatham’s campus throughout the semester to discuss topics surrounding sexual assault prevention. The first workshop was held on January 25, focused on the importance of consent.
PAAR is a private non-profit organization founded in 1972 by the Pittsburgh Chapter of the National Organization of Women in response to a series of rapes and growing public concern. They work to initiate a comprehensive program for rape research, treatment, and prevention. They have three major departments: prevention and outreach, crisis intervention, and counseling. The prevention and outreach team works to educate the Pittsburgh community about consent and actions to take to minimize instances of sexual violence. Crisis intervention provides legal assistance to victims, along with a 24/7 phone line where victims can reach out for help and advice on steps to take after instances of sexual assault or rape. PAAR’s counseling services have helped victims of all ages and backgrounds through recovery, and will not turn anyone away due to lack of insurance.
A representative from the prevention and outreach team gave a talk about the importance of consent and communication on Wednesday, January 25, in the Conover Room. He explained in the presentation that consent is, “the legal standard that sexual behavior is held against,” and that it is also “mutual, voluntary, and verbal.” He went on to define consent as “based on choice,”“actively given,” and “asked for.” The presentation highlighted that consent can only be given by a verbal “yes.”
The presentation included one video that outlined the proper way to receive and give consent and one that showed how victims in situations of abuse are denied consent. While each of these videos provided important knowledge, they were completely heteronormative. The presentation itself mostly used language inclusive of LGBTQ+ individuals, most of the multimedia and anecdotal situations noted by the presenter did not.
The presentation did allow all who were present for the workshop many opportunities to talk back and contribute their own experience and knowledge. Participants were encouraged to answer questions and provide further insight for the presenter.
After the presentation, Mardi Steinitz commented “In my opinion, it is important that Chatham students attend these workshops for the opening of dialogue about sexual violence. Unfortunately, sexual violence occurs frequently, but it can be difficult for the survivor to disclose. Discussing sexual violence may make survivors feel more comfortable about disclosing. Also, discussing sexual violence is important because it can open people’s eyes and may lead to prevention in the future.
The most significant takeaway from the first lunch and learn was the importance of consent, even if the individuals have had sex on a prior occasion. Also, I found it important to remember that while no means no, yes also means yes.”
Heather Black, who heads Chatham’s Sexual Assault Prevention Committee, explained “I think it is important that Chatham students attend the PAAR workshops to learn and understand sexual assault prevention. We must work together as a community to educate each other, be good bystanders, and work to end sexual assault. Attending a workshop is one way to further your education and be part of the solution.
The next Lunch and Learn will be on Wednesday, March 1 and will discuss Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking. After, Compassion Fatigue will be covered at the same time on March 29, and Bystander Intervention will follow on April 12.
Anyone who attends three out of four of the events will be entered for a raffle that includes a pound of Starbucks coffee and a cute Starbucks mug.
If you need intervention following an instance of sexual assault, call PAAR’s 24 hour helpline: 1-866-ENDRAPE.