As I pushed my way through the crowded dance floor at Levels Nightclub last Sunday night, I was surrounded by flashing lights, powerful bass, and the enthralled voices of festive college students, seeking release from a long week of classes. Amidst an atmosphere that was seemingly light-hearted, I noticed something malicious.
An obviously intoxicated college-aged female leaned shakily against the back wall. Her eyelids drooped and her knees bent precariously. Overcome in drunken fervor, she was defenseless. Appalled, I watched as a male patron of the club pressed himself against her, attempted to fondle her, and kissed her pervasively. Even in her incoherence, she attempted to turn her away from her assailant’s intruding lips.
He did not retreat. Instead he led her into a secluded corner of the club.
I was disgusted. I was completely unable to divert my attention from the spectacle, petrified by indecision and uneasiness.
To my relief, two other female partygoers approached the helpless woman and led her away.
They did what I should have done. What I was afraid to do.
Peggy Lorah, the Director of Penn State’s Center for Women Students, says the two young women did “exactly what we’d want them to do.”
The most important thing a bystander can do in this type of situation is not be a bystander.
Lorah suggests that “part of being a member of the community is knowing and stepping in” when confronted with these dangerous situations.
The entire situation has taught me something important. As involved as we are with events that groups that try to defuse rape culture and prevent sexual assault, if we are not willing to step up to the plate and address a dangerous decision when we see it, our efforts are nullified.
I didn’t have the confidence to address the situation and that was wrong.
Campus organizations like Men Against Violence work to address these issues by helping community members understand how to confront and prevent sexual assault. They educate bystanders about how to appropriately and effectively intervene in situations that have the potential to lead to sexual assault.
The best way to address potential rape scenarios like these is to remove the victim from the situation, or to address the assailant firmly - without insults or threats.
Lorah re-emphasizes that efforts to intervene “really can save someone from being a victim.”
As community members, and as other human beings, we have a duty to confront situations like these when we see them. The only way to confront the issues that face our community and our university is to confront them head-on; the only way to stop the defenseless from being taken advantage of is to know how – and have the conviction and confidence – to step in and stand up for those who can’t help themselves.
Victims of sexual violence seeking help or support can contact the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, the Center for Women’s Services, University Health Services, or the Nittany Medical Center. Penn State’s Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Hotline is 800-550-7575.
By Brandon Vesely, Spark Reporter