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Here’s ‘The Hook Up’: Being an active bystander, reflecting on slut.

Cecilia G. Hernandez, Staff writer

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“Cockblock! Some cocks need to be blocked,” Anthony DiNicola said to a small audience of NEIU students in Alumni Hall. “We have to be willing to call them out.”

During “The Hook Up” improv presentation on Sept. 4, DiNicola coaxed us to be an active bystander by introducing four ways to intervene while also making us reflect on how the language we use today affects – and encourages – sexual assault crimes.

DiNicola received his rape victim advocacy through ICASA in Springfield, Illinois. He is a senior educator in the Catharsis Productions team, where their mission is “to change the world by producing innovative, accessible and 
research-supported programming that challenges oppressive attitudes and shifts behavior,” according to their website.

DiNicola successfully achieved this mission in “The Hook-up.” He first asked us to help him think of slurs and names used to describe a person who enjoys sex. He started with slurs used for women and wrote a total of ten names. “Slut” was among the ten slurs. For men, “pimp” and “player” were shouted from the crowd.

“[The names used for women] are powerfully more aggressive,” DiNicola said. He explained how “pimp” is another way of saying “master” in reference to a “whore.” Women are being objectified, reduced to being a vessel of pleasure, while men are the ones in control.  

“It’s a modern form of slavery,” DiNicola said.

“Slut” is often used to label a person who has multiple partners, but DiNicola asked us how many partners does it take to be called a slut? Different numbers were shouted, ranging from two to eight partners. I personally shouted “two” just to see the reactions of my friends beside me; the crowd laughed.

“‘Slut’ is a magical, made-up construct,” DiNicola said, after our chuckles died down. “We have a million different numbers [because] ‘slut’ was created by society. We are society. We can let [slut] go.”

Freshman Andy Lagunas attended “The Hook-up” and strongly agreed with DiNicola because of his experience with the word “slut.” There were rumors about Lagunas that were being spread by his Steinmetz College Prep high school peers through a Facebook page called “The Shade Room.” The rumors centered around Lagunas allegedly having multiple sex partners.

“People started to treat me differently,” Lagunas said, after discovering he was one of the victims of The Shade Room. “These rumors belittled my self-esteem, because I was letting their words get to me. I couldn’t see my self-worth.”

Lagunas said it was his peers that were repeatedly calling him a “slut” and giving him a negative connotation. By his senior year, Lagunas said “it became a norm to be known as ‘the class slut.’”

“Because of this, my anxiety was triggered,” he said.

“It’s not about someone’s sexual history, no,” DiNicola said.  “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have sex.”

Unfortunately, slut-shaming starts early in school environments. Sonali Kohli’s article in the Los Angeles Times included a nationally representative 2011 survey from the American Assn. of University Women, where they found 46 percent of girls and 22 percent of boys experienced unwelcome sexual jokes, comments, and gestures.

These sexual comments or gestures can also come in the form of catcalls. Catcalls are another way of sexual harassment because they are not welcomed nor desired, and it makes many people feel uncomfortable.

“I know receiving catcalls or stares doesn’t mean I’m extraordinarily beautiful, but rather it’s men protruding their desired to control me,” junior Elsa Salgado said.

Salgado mentioned how doing something mundane, like walking to school from the brown line train stop, is filled with men telling her to smile or badgering her for her number. When she declines politely, they resort to slut-shaming her. Salgado says it doesn’t matter what she’s wearing; nothing is too revealing enough to deserve demeaning accusations like catcalls.

“Regardless of my outfit, men need to stop being oppressors because that’s what you’re doing men: oppressing me, reducing me to an object of desire instead of a person with genuine feelings,” Salgado said.

By allowing this derogatory and disparaging language continue to blend with our everyday narratives, we not only affect people’s self-esteem negatively, but we also allow perpetrators to blend in.

“People who sexually harass need this language,” DiNicola said. “There are dangers in this language. It makes it hard to support the survivor and easier for [perpetrators] to come forward.”

Sexual-abuse survivors are often the ones being questioned about the crime, about what they could have done to prevent it. Slut-shaming the victim, criticizing what they wore and blaming them for the crimes of a perpetrator enables sexual predators to continue their assaults.

“[Society] treats rape as if it’s an inevitable thing, which makes it easier for us to push the crime away,” DiNicola said. “It’s not a crime about sexual attractiveness, but a crime about power and dominance.”

Many survivors get asked, “Why didn’t you fight and scream? Why didn’t you do your best to escape?” During our interrogation, we often forget that there’s a third option to our body’s natural reaction to threats: fight, flight, or freeze.

“Freezing and withdrawing are defensive responses –- not consent,” Jackie Hong wrote in her article “Why Victims ‘Freeze Up’ During Sexual Assaults” published in Vice.

Her article showcased Ryerson University psychology professor and “The Anti-Anxiety Workbook” author Dr. Martin Antony, where he said, “Freezing is actually a common response to a threat that we see in mammals, in fact, not just humans.” We might freeze when in situations “where there’s an element of fear or panic,” like presenting a project in front of a crowd or being attacked by someone we considered a friend.

DiNicola said most sexual assault cases are “non-stranger,” meaning the perpetrator was someone they knew. He urged us to consider maybe the perpetrator was someone they trusted, and he forced us to acknowledge that non-survivors wouldn’t know how to react either. “So how dare we tell someone else what they should have done?” DiNicola said.

What DiNicola emphasised throughout his improv presentation was that “anybody can be a victim of this crime and anyone can be a part of rape.” Survivors can be any gender and any race. Cases like Brock Turner diminish the stereotype that it’s usually a white, blonde girl getting assaulted by a person of color. In my experience, people of color are the first ones being considered as perpetrators. They are the bad people because of their skin tone. Turner forced everyone to realize that it’s not only people of color, but white people too.

DiNicola offers four ways we, as a society, can intervene and help stop sexual assault. They are: direct, distract, delegate and delayed.

We can directly walk up to a person we suspect is being cornered and ask, “Are you okay?” It let’s the perpetrator know that we’re watching them, making them less likely to assault anyone.

However, many of us are not as direct, so distract would be another way to intervene. By creating an excuse to pull the person away, either by asking them for help in answering a text (when really you’re showing them a note you wrote, asking if they are okay) or asking them to dance, you’re helping. If you need backup, delegate to the bouncers, to the DJ, to the bartender! Anyone willing to help keep an eye on the person.

The last way to help is used after the crime happened. Helping the victim find resources to support them, without forcing them to use any of said resources, is the “delayed” way.

However, Director of Angelina Pedroso Center for Diversity and Intercultural Affairs Maria Genao-Homs said the first step to being an active bystander is to consider the safety of the person being harassed.

“If you intervene, you can aggravate the perpetrator,” Genao-Homs said. “Sometimes it’s better to wait and ask, ‘What can I do to help?’ afterwards.”

Genao-Homs explained that many times the lover or partner is the one harassing the person, and if we intervene, that person has to go home with a triggered perpetrator. We have to consider how intervening might affect the victim because “no one ever wants to feel like they can’t handle their life.”

“We must consider the safety of ourselves and the victim,” Genao-Homs said. So she suggests to first survey the scene, and once the perpetrator is out of sight, approach the victim and ask them what we can do to help. Our capacity to help depends on what the victim is willing to let us do.

Genao-Homs mentioned how NEIU doesn’t have an active bystander training for the community, but it’s something she considered pulling together. I personally think this training would be useful in educating students on ways to intervene or handle situations concerning harassment effectively and safely.

I hear it all the time – catcalls, perpetrators trying to leer victims in with slurs or getting them intoxicated. I usually abruptly drag the victim away from the perpetrator or tell the catcaller to shut the hell up. I don’t consider my safety because I think I’m larger than life, indestructible, which is not the case. An active bystander training would help me know when it’s safe to intervene personally, or when it’s best to ask for help.

Reiterating back to DeNicola’s fourth way of intervening (delayed), we can help our friend find resources they might need at NEIU.

Assistant Director of Student Leadership Development Rae Joyce Baguilat-Bukovsky is the only confidential advisor outside of the Student Counseling able to help victims. This means anyone can go to her if they want to share their experience without fear of it being reported.

“I’m able to give the victim options and let them control what they want to do,” Baguilat-Bukovsky said. “Giving control back to the victim is very important.”

Being a medical advocate, she’s able to accompany the victim to the hospital so that they can get a rape kit done if they want it. The rape kit is good for three years, which can be held for evidence if within those three years the victim decides to report the assault. Baguilat-Bukovsky is also able to call NEIU’s Director of Equal Opportunity and Ethics Compliance Leah Heinecke-Krumhus, which is another way of saying NEIU’s legal attorney, and ask questions for the victim so that they can make an informed decision.

“The main thing I would want the victim to know is that they have options,” Baguilat-Bukovsky said. “They have the decision to say what level they want to start with.”

Whether it’s needing someone to listen or reporting a sexual assault (or harassment), Baguilat-Bukovsky is a resource we can use. Her office is located in the Angelina Pedroso, and Student Counseling Services is located in B-119.

“The Hook Up” made it painfully obvious we, as a society, need to change how we treat each other. We need to stop using words like “slut,” and become an active bystander. Do we need to look out for each other because if not us, who else?

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1 Comment

One Response to “Here’s ‘The Hook Up’: Being an active bystander, reflecting on slut.”

  1. Maria on September 28th, 2017 6:09 am

    thanks God there will never be sexual assaults on joislut.com

    [Reply]

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