California State University East Bay

Campus sexual assault event misfires

January 22, 2015

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Campus sexual assault event misfires

Photo | Kris Stewart

Photo | Kris Stewart

Photo | Kris Stewart

Roughly 20 students attended a recent sexual assault awareness event at Cal State East Bay, one that organizers hoped would start a buzz on campus about the severity of sexual assault and also offer explanations to students the particulars of Title IX, a federal civil right that prohibits sex discrimination in education.

New York Times bestselling author, Harlan Cohen, was keynote speaker for the event, “Sexual Assault Awareness,” a joint effort by CSUEB’s student government and the Residence Hall Association. However Cohen’s keynote speech had little to do with sexual assault and focused more on dating and not being afraid of rejection.

Cohen was not a bad speaker, but had more attended, they would’ve been confused about Cohen’s speech, which included everything but the topic of sexual assault. While Cohen was an animated speaker, it was evident that he was not an expert on sexual assault awareness.

At no time during Cohen’s speech were statistics of sexual assault mentioned nor steps you should take if you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted. He made a joke referring to students getting drugged or drunk and glossed over it; a carefree, laid-back attitude may be a great formula to reaching students when discussing study habits and how to get along with a roommate but seemed inappropriate at an event meant to get students serious about sexual assault.

When asked if he felt that sexual assault was the biggest issue facing college students today, Cohen replied, “I wrap Title IX into how can you set boundaries and how can you say what you think and do what you feel and how can you respect other people’s boundaries and do it in a safe and healthy way.”
This appeared to be his stock answer to the follow-up questions as well.

Proclaimed as a college life expert, Cohen reached the peak of his fame surrounding the 2005 release of his first book, “The Naked Roommate.”  During the event, Cohen spoke comically about relationships and dating. As students arrived for the event, songs like Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty” played in the background.

He solicited questions from the audience by giving the students his cell phone number and asking them to text him with questions while he spoke.
This allowed students to ask questions anonymously and create an open space for discussion on issues they face regarding relationships and dating.
Students who attended walked away with a free whistle and a T-shirt promoting the “It’s On Us” sexual assault awareness campaign set to take place Jan. 26 through Jan. 29, during which students can make pledges to help stop sexual assault and create awareness.

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