WGS would like to congratulate our first Honors student, senior Elizabeth Stalfort. For her honors project, Stalfort led a two-month long campaign to raise awareness about sexual violence on campus. Her campaign asked students to share their stories about how they have been impacted by sexual violence. Students could participate by submitting personal stories, signs with a few sentences about how they have been impacted, or could answer the question: “if you experienced sexual violence at Wake, would you report it to campus police, why or why not?” The responses have been posted on a public blog, “End the Silence, Wake Forest.”
“I’ve had friends tell me that more of their female friends have been raped than haven’t. I’ve known 25 women and two men who were raped in either high school or college,” Stalfort says. She continues, “In addition to raising awareness, I wanted to help survivors realize they are not alone, reduce the shame and stigma of having experienced sexual violence, and pressure the university administration to take sexual violence more seriously.”
To publicize the campaign and encourage students to submit their stories, Stalfort wrote about her own rape in the student newspaper, the Old Gold & Black. Her story was republished on the Ms. Magazine website.
Stalfort received 65 submissions from the Wake Forest community: 21 stories from survivors, 26 signs, and 18 answers to the question about reporting sexual violence to campus police. Once the submissions were collected and posted on the blog, Stalfort publicized the launch of the blog by posting signs and flyers around campus and by placing a display of pillows outside of Reynolda Hall, with statements about sexual violence written on the pillowcases.
Through her project, Stalfort noticed three recurring themes: women often saw themselves as responsible for preventing sexual assault and thus sometimes blamed themselves when they were assaulted; women often did not recognize instances of assault as rape if those assaults involved non-violent types of coercion or perpetrators known to the victim; and, male students often found it difficult to recognize the role they played in perpetuating “rape culture.”
“Through this important project, Stalfort has really brought home the extent to which sexual violence is a widespread problem,” says Dr. Kristina Gupta, Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and director of the WGS honors program. Dr. Gupta continues, “her project demonstrates that the Wake Forest community needs to commit substantial resources to sexual violence prevention and response. Every student deserves to pursue an education without fearing sexual violence.”
Stalfort will be graduating in December of 2014 and then will be heading to South Africa for a four-month internship with the organization SWEAT (Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Task Force). In the spring, management of the blog will be taken over by Wake student Nora Kane.
Note: if you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence at Wake Forest, there are a number of resources available to help. A complete list of resources can be found here.