On November 29, The Coalition to End Rape Culture (CERC) spearheaded by Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and joined by other campus organizations held its kickoff teach-in at the University of South Florida (USF). In response to two reported rapes on the USF campus, Tampa Bay SDS responded quickly by shaping a petition of demands to be implemented in a timely fashion by the USF administration. Organizing under the banner of ending rape culture, “a culture in which rape and sexual violence are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media normalize, excuse, tolerate, or even condone rape”, the campaign is designed to focus in on the systematic roots of rape and sexual assault.
Five members of SDS, alongside faculty and the Center for Victim Advocacy and R.E.A.L. program, spoke on a diversity of topics ranging from examples of rape culture to the need for a third wave of feminism to continue the gains of past women’s liberation movements. Joined by around 50 students and many onlookers inspired by the call to action, the teach-in was a deeply personal and liberating experience for those involved. This teach-in represented the launching of a sustained anti-rape culture campaign, which will lead to the presentation of demands to USF administration, which include: the introduction of a mandatory rape awareness and myths course for all incoming students, the expansion of the Women’s and Gender Studies Department, and the introduction of a “Good Samaritan”, bystander intervention policy requiring students to take reasonable steps to intervene if observing a person or people engaged in sexually assaultive behavior.
This campaign is designed to bring about practical changes on the USF campus, as well as shifting the discussion from how victims should act to telling rapists not to rape. For too long systems of patriarchy and male privilege have been used as tools to oppress women and the LGBTQ community. The Coalition to End Rape Culture has been created to fight back against such oppression and fight for women’s and LGBTQ liberation. Tampa Bay SDS stands firmly in its belief that we cannot stop rape and sexual assault without a clear discussion of the systems that enforce and utilize such horrific tools. With the hosting of this teach-in, the CERC campaign is going full speed ahead into the next semester to plan more actions and the eventual presentation of demands to administration.
On this day all stood to say: This is what a feminist looks like!