Edwards’ presentation draws crowd, challenges students

By Mariah Geiger

Sexual assault is discussed frequently on college campuses, but not the way Keith Edwards does it. Edwards, Director of Campus Life, presented “Ending Rape: Proactive Approaches to Ending Sexual Violence” to Macalester students, staff and faculty last Thursday. At least 200 people filled Kagin Commons to participate in the Health and Wellness sponsored event, many wearing “Consent is Mac” t-shirts. Some student organizations even moved their meetings to al­low their members to attend. Though this nationally recognized interactive presentation focuses on sexual violence where men are perpetrators and women are victims, Edwards emphasized that everyone has a role in changing rape culture. “Sexual violence perpetrated overwhelmingly by men affects all of us,” Edwards said in an interview prior to the event. “I want to help everyone in the audi­ence understand that they are negatively impacted by violence against women regardless of their gender.” Through statistics, examples and discussion, Edwards sought to outline for the audience the role culture plays in sexual violence. He talked quickly, accepted questions and joked with the audience. “He is a very provocative speaker, and he ap­proaches it in a way that people maybe haven’t thought about it or heard about it before.” said Lisa Broek, the Associate Director of Health Services for Health Pro­motion and a member of the Sexual Assault Support Team on campus. She also emphasized that prevention of sexual violence is one of the many roles played by the Health and Wellness Center. Edwards has been giving the presentation since 2000. A version has been presented to Macalester stu­dents in each of the six years since Edwards began working at the school. But not everyone is so comfortable with the mes­sage. K. Christian Bangert, a leader of Mac Reimagines Masculinity, said he has friends that found themselves “incredibly challenged by what Keith says.” “I don’t think a year should go by without Keith giving that talk on campus at least once,” Banger said.” Edwards himself was challenged by similar mes­saging when he was a student at Hamline, but after a presentation at his graduate school prompted nine women close to him to confide that they had survived sexual violence without realizing it, he returned to the message he had heard years before. He has been do­ing his presentation since. “I do this for the women I know… for the women I’ll never know… and for the men because we are di­minished by passively participating in a culture where men’s violence against women continues to happen,” Edwards said. His presentation emphasized that rape culture is perpetuated on all college campuses, including Macal­ester. “When you don’t speak up, you give your per­mission,” he told the audience. Edwards implored those in the audience to talk to others about what they heard, citing that if each audi­ence member talked to five people, half of the campus would hear his message. “Never doubt the power of your own voice,” he said. He finished his presentation to a standing ova­tion. Afterward, Mac Reimagines Masculinity and FIA*STARSA hosted a discussion in the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center to offer students a space to process the message of the event. refresh –>