Seniors deliver sexual violence presentations

Kamala Durairaj

Seniors participating in The Talk Project will give peer-to-peer sexual violence awareness presentations to Choices and Challenges classes the weeks of Feb. 27 and March 5.
Maddy Harbert ’17 interned at the National Council of Jewish Women two summers ago where her boss, Director of Legislation Maya Paley, encouraged her to help create a program based on the sexual assault awareness documentary “The Hunting Ground.” Along with other interns, Harbert contributed to the development of The Talk Project, a program that trains teen educators to inform their peers about consent culture and redefines ‘the talk’ about sexual violence, according to their website.
“The Talk Project hopes to accomplish this ideal society of ‘consent culture,’” Harbert said in an email. “We are advocating for a verbal, enthusiastic ‘yes’ when it comes to any sexual encounters. The information is geared more towards students as it is a peer-to-peer workshop, but everything in the presentation is useful for people of all ages.”
Harbert trained Naomi Barlava ’17, Kent Sheridan ’17 and Carter Begel ’17 to give presentations that will cover definitions of rape, sexual assault, sexual violence and consent. Their presentation also includes sexual violence statistics, video clips from “The Hunting Ground” and open discussion with students.
“I think it’s really important to have peer-on-peer discussions because, as teens, we understand the confusion that can come up with conversations about what sexual assault even entails,” Barlava said. “Because we understand the confusion, we can clear it up and explain it much more clearly than a lot of adults can. Sexual assault is really prevalent in college culture, so I think it’s so great that we can try and help people understand the issue in greater depth before they go off and are exposed to it.”
Harbert said she has noticed an unacceptable amount of rape jokes on campus that normalize rape culture. She was prompted to organize these presentations because she believes students are not aware of how many people sexual assault affects.
“I believe people on this campus don’t take the subject to heart, and that’s because many think ‘I would never rape’ or ‘I’ll never get raped,’” Harbert said. “However, in actuality, one in four women will be sexually assaulted in college, and the same with one in 16 men.”
Assistant to the Head of Upper School Michelle Bracken is also organizing another guest speaker for Choices and Challenges classes to continue talks about sexual violence prevention. Attorney and Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School Catherine Carpenter (Erica Jansson ’08) is scheduled to speak with students about the legal aspects of consent and substance use in sexual assault cases. Carpenter is a nationally-renowned criminal law scholar in the area of sex crimes and sex offender registration laws.