Challenging sexual assault at Albion

It is hard to miss the posters plastered all over campus. The simple yet striking design features recognizable Albion College staff and students holding up signs against rape culture and campus sexual assault. Some signs feature the slogan “Only yes means yes”, while others say “Consent to one act is not consent to all acts”, to name a few. These posters are the direct result of a Foundation for Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity (FURSCA) project by Bailey Beem, an Avoca junior. She spent her summer working on reducing sexual assault on college campuses, specifically in Albion.

Albion College has strict guidelines and rules about sexual assault and rape on campus, and many of its rules are different than state laws. For example, at Albion College the only acceptable form of consent is verbal consent. Unlike what state law says, which is that the absence of “no” can mean “yes”,  on campus a partner must receive verbal consent before any sexual act is carried out.

“My biggest thing right now is I want people to learn what consent is,” Beem said. “What it is, why you need it, and that it’s cut and dry. You can’t assume, you can’t say, ‘I think it’s okay, I’m just going to go for it.’ Especially with Albion College’s policies because they’re different from the law, you have to have verbal consent, you have to say out loud, ‘yes this is something I want to continue with.’ And so many people don’t know that.”

Beem teamed up with English professor Judith Lockyer for her FURSCA project. Lockyer said she was excited at the prospect of working on this project with Bailey, and even helped her get an article published in the Pleiad last fall.

“I know that there are sexual assaults that happen every year that don’t get reported, because students talk to me and I know I’m not the only one they talk to,” Lockyer said. “I’ve known women students whose lives have really been damaged by having been raped here and by not being listened to or being betrayed. I think Bailey had such a great idea that I wanted to work on it with her.”

The posters were the result of a summer of research and planning on Beem’s part.  Her biggest project this summer was reading about the history of sexual assault throughout history. This research also led to researching laws about rape and sexual assault throughout the past several decades. After research, Beem talked to different schools, such as Eastern Michigan University, where Beem had a conference with Ellen Collier, the wife of Albion College’s Assistant Director for Greek Life and Student Organizations, Jon Collier. Ellen Collier is the directior of EMU’s women’s center, and talked with Beem about her ideas for raising campus awareness of sexual assault.  The idea behind the posters is part of new social norming campaigns, which aim to make sexual assault and rape an acceptable topic for debate and discussion.

“The idea with that [the posters] was to have people that are recognizable, people that you know on campus, you see them. They’re sort of model students, but they’re relatable and I wanted to have them holding signs and just teaching each other and showing that they support this. They’re not going to stand by while it happens. There’s a community,” Beem said.

But Beem’s project doesn’t stop at the posters. She plans to continue with a new round of posters to go up around campus, and she  also plans to expand her ideas to other areas on campus, such as like Greek Life. Beem intends to direct her message specifically towards males on campus, in order to raise awareness about men’s roles in sexual assault.

“I’m really looking for a way to get fraternity involvement,” Beem said.

Beem has also mentioned wanting to start a support group on campus for survivors of sexual assault and rape. Her ultimate goal is to create a community where students are safe and held accountable for their actions.

“There’s support on campus. There’s people who believe in this and will stand up for those beliefs,” Beem said.

Photo courtesy of Katie Monroe 

About Emily Miller 46 Articles
Emily is a senior student from Lake Orion, Michigan, majoring in English and Spanish. She is also the current Editor-In-Chief of The Pleiad. She loves the smell of old books, practicing yoga, and feminism. If there was a universe where green beans didn't exist, she would want to live in that universe. She is also a member of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. Follow her on twitter @emilyelizamillz or on her personal blog.

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