Consent is key
As part of a class project, students vow to ‘take back the trail’ and fight rape culture on campus
On the Chico State campus, there’s a path that runs from Warner Street west to the train tracks. It has a rather unpleasant reputation that earned it an equally unpleasant nickname: The Rape Trail.
“Just calling it ‘The Rape Trail’ perpetuates the normalization of sexual assault on campus,” Jerad Prevost told a crowd of about 50 people last Thursday (May 4). As emcee of the event, the culmination of a semester’s worth of work in a class called Social Movements, the Chico State student spoke animatedly and passionately about changing attitudes about rape among the campus community.
The class project had several goals, fellow student Madison Zimmerman told the group, which was assembled on the trail. Among the “list of demands,” as she called them, are renaming the path, installing a plaque with that new name, and painting the bridge crossing Big Chico Creek at Cherry Street teal, the color for sexual assault awareness.
Among the biggest issues addressed during the rally—dubbed Take Back the Trail—were hookup culture, rape culture and the sense of entitlement some people have over others’ bodies. “We need more education about consent,” one student told the crowd. “We don’t get a lot of information about it in high school, so when we get here we have to learn how to ask for and give consent.”
In an effort to offer that education, and to promote understanding of what it means to say “yes” or “no” to a sexual encounter, the class also started a new club on campus called ’Cats for Consent. Its self-described as a “student-led social movement striving to dismantle the rape culture that plagues our campus.”
In addition to student speakers, faculty took to the stage as well. Eddie Vela, for instance, dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, rallied behind the class. “The university values students who are civically engaged,” he said. “What this is is a collective commitment to our safety—it says, ‘We’re here to look out for each other on a daily basis.’”
Others echoed his message and urged everyone to have the courage to stand up not only for themselves but also for others. Stepping up as a bystander in a situation where someone else is being victimized in some way can be difficult and uncomfortable, one speaker said. But it’s an important part of restructuring people’s attitudes about what is OK. “We need to foster a culture of respect,” she said. “We need to keep showing up until the violence stops.”
The final speaker of the day, student Kimani Davis, had a powerful message. As a man, Davis said, he’s often not taken seriously when he says he’s a rape survivor. But he was raped. By a woman. It does happen, he said.
“I’ve suffered depression, I’ve felt broken, and I’ve felt alone,” Davis said. “I’m telling my story, but there are probably thousands of stories out there that are going unheard.”