Photo by Lam Ho
It should come as no surprise that at Sewanee, the highest incidences of sexual assault are reported during Fall and Spring Party Weekends. This past Fall Party, Sewanee Safe and Sound, a student-run activist group spearheaded by Madison Cornwell (C’16), came up with a plan in hopes of curbing the number of assaults. The group has designed buttons for students to wear wherever they go during the weekend that read: “How Far Do You Want to Go Tonight? Consent, Let’s Talk About It.”
The intention of these buttons is to create a dialogue about consent during Fall Party Weekend, when that discussion is perhaps the most necessary. The group did not want the message behind the buttons to go unheard, so they created a pledge for students to sign that reads:
“By taking this button, I pledge to wear it visibly during Fall Party weekend, November 6-9. I pledge to ask for consent in any intimate encounter, intervene in any situation that does not meet the standards of affirmative consent, and promote an open dialogue about issues of sexual assault and consent on Sewanee’s campus and beyond.”
The event was a resounding success. Cornwell explained that “the interest and excitement from everyone on campus was so encouraging!” Overall, 174 people signed the pledge at the Safe and Sound table in McClurg, but 261 buttons were taken in total, with some students verbally taking the pledge from their friends. Whether or not Safe and Sound’s first event affects the number of reported assaults during this party weekend remains to be seen, but members of the group, as well as members of the Sewanee community as a whole, are hopeful that it will have positive and far-reaching implications. Student-led groups such as Safe and Sound are bringing a conversation about consent to campus and transforming the way Sewanee views sexual assault. These groups are making Sewanee a more respectful and safe community for both men and women, and will hopefully have an enormous impact in ultimately eradicating the issue of sexual assault on our campus and beyond.