Being a teenager is all about being aware of where you are and who you're with. College is one of those places that bring people together and it's a clash of the titans (like Sam Worthington style) when worlds collide. Some of the things that college teaches are diversity, awareness and inclusivity. As young people, it's our job to take what we've learned and change the world. Prejudice, bias, ignorance and laziness are no longer excuses. We'll eventually inherit the fight, time to enter the warzone.

This past Thursday I had the privilege of attending the 7th annual "Dismantling Rape Culture Conference" or the DRCC in the Davis Student Center. It was an amazing experience that really made me aware of what was going on and the power and responsibility we all share in changing the mindset of our society when it comes to sexual misconduct. I woke up and got dressed and signed in before finding my fraternity brothers, Derrick and Zach in the little lounge on the fourth floor. We walk into the main ballroom and take our awkward time finding seats to take. The program starts with great speeches, a powerful recitation of a poem, and my IRA (inter-residence association) adviser, Dr. Learie Nurse singing a rousing rendition of "Rise." I literally had no idea the man could sing, and he's like John Legend good too. The keynote speaker activist, artist, mother, and survivor, Marta Sanchez, set the tone for the magnitude of the importance of what we would be about of for the day and from now on. Slideshows of her gorgeous toddler, mixed seamlessly with her artwork, and her stories of surviving sexual abuse were so moving, and left a lasting mark on everyone there. We split up and  had the option to attend different programming sessions. I start with Panhellenic president, Dani Peck, in the "Anger is an Energy" as we listened and engaged the presenters Troy & Laura as they got everyone fired up about the part men should be playing in this fight to change the campus rape culture. It's true that women are told to protect themselves, but men also have the responsibility to be active in discussing how we can support and help combat rape. It all starts with the language we use and how what we understand as rape culture. Things like recapping previous nights work in seducing women, drinking excessively and pressuring girls into intercourse, and saying things like "I'd tap, ruin, or bang that" are not appropriate and absolutely unnecessary when it comes to interacting with anyone. The sex jokes, the recounts on sex, and the bro code are all hindrances to moving forward. Truthfully, it's crazy scary to hear people talk about rape on campus and not understand that what they're joking about is a life-altering encounter and not something to ever be taken lightly. This is a fight that we all are involved in whether we like it or not, it's a warzone.

Afterwards, it was on to "Social Media and Rape Culture" presentation by the local chapter of H.O.P.E. works with Derrick. We ventured out of the Davis Center and into the newly remodeled Aiken Center and sat in circles for a group activity to give examples on both positive and negative uses of social media surrounding rape culture. It was interesting program and gave a lot of people the chance to connect and meet other people who truly care about this important cause. My group had a wide variety of people, including my friend from IRA, Erica, and some fellow freshmen new members of Greek, some Kappa Sigmas, Max and Mark. The morning flew by and soon it was back to the ballroom for lunch. Dom and Campbell joined us and we listened to more presenters on how we can take action and dismantle rape culture. The last program I attended was a panel on how our campus event, "the Naked Bike Ride" propagates rape culture. I remember last semester when I witnessed that mess of a free-spirited parade of nudity, and it was just not good. I think it's great to be wild, young, and free, but if we could keep our undergarments like my plaid boxers on, I might be alright with it. Other than the whole nakedness every time it happens there are influx of sexual assaults relayed to the belief, excessive drunkenness, drug use, and tons of injuries. Not to mention the creepy middle aged men from Canada and the surrounding community that come to watch. It's not safe and it should not be condoned. In this warzone that we're fighting in, we've got to oppose things that give those rotten few the chance to take advantage of our fellow students.

Rape is a tough topic to talk about for a lot of people. Most people don't have personal experience or find it hard to connect with dismantling rape culture and that's the problem. We're obligated as students on this campus to do our best to educate those who don't understand the seriousness of rape and sexual abuse. It's something that rips your life apart and changes you forever. Both psychologically and physically, the trauma is damaging and it's shocking. 1 in 4 women report being sexually abused during college. 67% of men would never consider raping a woman or man. It's those that engage in raping that are repeat offenders. 97% of those that have been raped know their rapist. It's unbelievable statistics that mean something and the fact that you can see the implications all around us. If it's late at night and you're walking behind a girl on campus and she clutches her purse because she fears you, that's a problem. Everyone should be able to feel safe, secure, and welcome no matter where they are. It's a warzone out there for sure. There's so much ignorance about the subject, like that people think that rape cannot happen in same-sex situations, and that what constitutes rape isn't always known explicitly. Rape in pop culture has been a touchy topic as well. Kelly Taylor on Beverly Hills 90210 was raped in a back alley, and eventually ended up shooting and killing her rapist. Naomi Clark on 90210 was raped by her teacher and after falsely accusing him was afraid to tell. On Private Practice, Dr. Charlotte King was brutally raped by a patient. Darcy on Degrassi was drugged and raped at a party, and initially thought she'd had sex with her boyfriend, Jamie, and was so destroyed by the realization that she slit her wrists in the girls locker room in attempted suicide. On the Best Years, Samantha's friend was being molested by her father, who happened to be a professor, while her mother looked the other way and it led her to a psychotic breakdown. Rape culture is all around us, but it doesn't have to be, it starts with us, taking a stand a taking up arms in this warzone.

Being a teenager is about being smart with your words. Those who are great in their speech are the ones who can convey what they mean in the precise and concise way possible. Like my campus TV station's first viral video of "Smooth Barack Obama" shows, you can relate to anyone and everyone if you're conscious of your surroundings. No need to duck and cover, come out guns blazing and go out into the warzone.

My blog post question for the day is ... what are you going to do change ignorance where you are? I do my best everyday to make a difference when it comes to educating people with the injustices that are on my campus. Just stopping to take the time to explain why things people say are inappropriate or hurtful is meaningful and makes a real difference.


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