On Thursday, February 15th, the Sexual Misconduct Committee of Honor Council hosted a Sexual Misconduct Panel between two members of the Duke Men’s Project, Saumya and Ethan, and two gender violence prevention interns, Brigid and Mehreen. The goal of the panel was to foster a dialogue surrounding proactive, rather than reactive, solutions to rape culture, specifically on Duke’s campus. The committee really wanted to engage men in this conversation about proactive measures, and emphasize the importance of changing male-female interactions to curb this problem. While the vast majority of men are not sexual predators, the vast majority of sexual predators are men. This panel aimed to explore the gender power dynamic, and brainstorm both explanations for the alarming rates of sexual assault, as well as ways to involve more men in the conversation and curb the problem.
The panel began with members of Honor Council’s Sexual Misconduct Committee asking the panelists questions that the group had brainstormed, and then continued into a conversation between the audience members and the four panelists about rape culture at Duke. The committee asked questions about #MeToo and #TimesUp, bystanders, the role of organizations like the Women’s Center and the Duke Men’s Project on campus, the impact of required programs versus natural dialogues, and more. Two main topics that arose following the committee’s questions were sexual assault as it related to Greek life and Duke student-athletes. We discussed the “perfect storm,” as one panelist described, that is created by the power dynamics in the Greek life system, specifically in fraternity parties, that too often leads to sexual misconduct. We also discussed the truth to the claim of “locker-room talk,” and the seemingly untouchable status that some male athletes hold on campus.
The panel was certainly a valuable experience for everyone involved, though, outside of the men on the Sexual Misconduct Committee, male attendance was quite low. The question that seemed the most prevalent throughout the whole panel was “How do we make people care?” The reality is, in order to end sexual assault, the people that are not generally affected by the pervasiveness of the problem are going to have to step up; this could be changing their personal behavior, intervening in potentially dangerous situations, and/or unabashedly discussing the problem in group settings. Figuring out how to engage more of the population with this topic is certainly difficult; the Sexual Misconduct Committee of Duke Honor Council will continue to try and expand this conversation over the next few years in order to move closer to this goal!