Keith Edwards, a nationally recognized speaker on sexual violence and rape prevention will speak to Trinity at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday Feb. 25, in Laurie Auditorium. Edwards is a prolific speaker at campuses and universities across the nation, speaking on ways to end sexual violence and how individuals can be a part of the change. Edwards currently serves as the director of campus life at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn. The event is sponsored by Greek Council and the Coalition for Respect.
In a pre-speech interview with the Trinitonian, Edwards outlined his goals for the talk and gave insight on the ongoing national discussion.
“I’m going to talk about how we can prevent sexual violence; there is a lot of intention about sexual violence that happens on campuses and how campuses respond,” Edwards said. “Certainly campuses can do better in that regard and as long as we are talking about how we respond we will always be responding and reactive.”
Edwards continued to note his aims to help shift the focus of individuals and communities in addressing the issues of sexual violence away from a purely reactionary manner.
“I’m going to try and help people make a shift towards how we add to the conversation, not only in responding to sexual violence, but really, how do we prevent it in the first place,” Edwards said.
Echoing this sentiment, David Tuttle, dean of students and associate vice president for student affairs, noted the importance of preventative actions.
“We can have all the procedures and policies in place , but ideally we wouldn’t ever have to use them. Prevention and education are really the most important elements of dealing with the topic of sexual assault,” Tuttle said. “This is a much broader initiative by the Coalition [for Respect] and different departments and students to continue to increase awareness and prevention.”
Looking into the issues of sexual violence and assault, Edwards noted the importance of understanding the problem and the perpetrators, and how to educate individuals to change.
“If we are going to prevent [sexual violence] in the first place, we have to understand who the perpetrators are,” Edwards said. “The perpetrators are overwhelmingly men. So, how do we reach men and help us? Individually we may not be the perpetrators, but we can proactively change things so there are fewer perpetrators.”
After addressing the perpetrators Edwards outlined the focus of his talk.
“We are going to talk a bit about who the perpetrators are, what is informed consent, that being the difference between hooking up and sex and rape and sexual violence, and about some of the myths we’ve been taught from the culture,” Edwards said. “We will also talk about the things every day in our culture that miseducate us and how we can change those things and speak out against them, not only first at Trinity but also in our broader communities across the country and the world.”
Speaking further on the miseducation of individuals in society, Edwards explored the traditional notions of masculinity and how they can give rise to issues of sexual violence.
“I think our whole culture miseducates us regardless of our gender, our sexual orientation or gender identity. There is something about how we educate men on traditional definitions of masculinity give men messages that prove your manhood by sexual conquest, and that leads to some men engaging in behavior that they don’t even want to, but feel they have to in our society, to prove their manhood,” Edwards said.
Edwards continued, noting the toxicity of such messages and how detrimental they are to creating meaningful and substantial discussions.
“I think there are really toxic messages about how we as men are supposed to think, feel and behave that certainly gives permission to men to be sexually aggressive,” Edwards said. “Research shows that, my life experience shows that, it is not good for anybody, and it leads to sexual violence.”
To many Trinity students, the issue of sexual assault is one that needs to be discussed to mitigate the problems.
“I think the lecture is a great idea as it will continue to allow students and faculty to get more comfortable with the notion of talking about this difficult subject,” said Clint Schroeder, sophomore. “The more discussions we can have on sexual assault the better prepared we can be in taking steps to prevent it.”
With sexual assault and violence a prominent discussion in the public sphere, Edwards gave insight into the emergence of the issue, and how these issues have emerged to the forefront of discussion in two ways.
“One is more involvement by the federal government that has resulted in the White House report “˜Not Alone’ along with more guidance from the Department of Education there, new amendments, more policy, more guidance, instruction about how colleges should respond and of course that generates media attention,” Edwards said. “There have also been more activists””survivors who have wanted to share their stories in a much more public way.”
The initiative, “Not Alone,” launched on Jan. 22, 2014, aims to provide information and help to students and schools facing issues of sexual assault. President Barack Obama stressed the importance of addressing the issue when the initiative was presented, stating, “Perhaps the most important, we need to keep saying to anyone out there who has ever been assaulted: “˜You are not alone. We have your back. I’ve got your back.'”
Edwards also noted the prominence of attention given to Greek organizations regarding sexual violence, and what they, as organizations, can do to change that.
“The areas we see the highest rates of sexual violence being perpetrated is in Greeks and athletics and the military. These are all male or hyper-masculine areas. My focus will be to everyone in the room what, Greeks in particular, can do to be a part of the change we want to have””to be part of the solution,” Edwards said. “I know fraternities and sororities to be powerful organizations, for good and for bad, so I am going to try and talk to them about how their organizations can increase and amplify the change we want to have and how they can be a part of the solution and change the culture on campus.”
Elaborating on the notion of fraternities, Edwards noted the core goal of such organizations, and how changing the culture of sexual violence can fulfill such goals.
“Fraternities at their core level are about creating better men and if they really did that then they would be a big part of the solution,” Edwards said. “If they are getting trained to be leaders, which I hope they are, this is a powerful way for them to live out that leadership and really make the world a better world for all of us.”
Edwards, in speaking to the Trinity community and San Antonio, noted how every individual has the potential to be part of the change.
“If [you] want to come and figure out how to be a part of the solution, I believe everyone can spark change,” Edwards said. “We will talk about how to make that change and how big of an impact each person can have.”
For more information on Keith Edwards and videos of his past talks across the country, visit www.keithedwards.com. On Mar. 3 the Coalition for Respect will be holding a general forum on sexual assault in the Fiesta Room at 6 p.m.