“It’s literally a hunting grounds. I know you guys know that.”

That’s how Shelby Looper, Muncie Police Department victim advocate, described rape culture in bars students frequent Thursday night at a panel addressing sexual assault.

Though the audience, mainly comprised of fraternity members, filled the room in the L.A. Pittinger Student Center, it fell silent when one of the seven women on the panel spoke.

Panelists:

  • Shelby Looper, Muncie Police Department’s victim advocate
  • Courtney Jarrett, women’s and gender studies professor and associate director of Disability Services
  • Ashley Boester-Dean, psychologist at the Counseling Center
  • Shelby Leveritt, Feminists for Action president
  • Corinne Lankowicz, Step In. Speak Up. president
  • Allison Wynbissinger,  Ball State victim advocate
  • Tiffany Peters, assistant dean of students and deputy Title IX coordinator

The panel was made up of Looper; Courtney Jarett, women’s and gender studies professor and associate director of Disability Services; Ashley Booster-Dean, psychologist at the Counseling Center; Shelby Leveritt, Feminists for Action president; Corinne Lankowicz, Step In. Speak Up. president; Allison Wynbissinger, Ball State victim advocate; and Tiffany Peters, assistant dean of students and deputy Title IX coordinator.

The event, which was organized by the Student Government Association, was one of the educational events members of the Interfraternity Council could attend to fulfill the requirements for the social “pause” to be lifted Jan. 31.

RELATED: SGA to host sexual assault panel, IFC members expected to attend

The panel began with organized questions and was then opened up to the audience to ask their own questions.

The first question asked panelists how they define consent, and concurrently, sexual assault, which allowed some common myths be debunked early on.

“There is this misconception that rape is something that is violent, and if it’s not violent, then it’s not constituted as rape,” Lankowicz said.

Peters later referred to the code of student rights and responsibilities which states, “Consent is a knowing, voluntary and clear mutual agreement to engage in sexual activity.”

In the case of potential sexual misconduct, the panel, in turn, asked a favor of the audience — to be active bystanders rather than passive ones.

According to the panel members, an active bystander is someone who intervenes and tries to stop or de-escalate a dangerous situation before it happens. A passive bystander chooses not to take any action.

“It takes a tremendous amount of courage to be an active bystander,” Peters said.

This, however, lessens the possibility of a sexual assault but is not necessarily rape prevention, Wynbissinger said.

“Don’t rape,” Wynbissinger said. “The only person who can truly prevent a sexual assault is the person who’s going to do it.”

If a friend says they were sexually assaulted, the panelists agreed the most important thing to do is listen.

“If you’re their friend, you should believe them,” Leveritt said.

Joshua Borges, a sophomore telecommunications major and a member of Alpha Tau Omega, thought tips the panel gave to help support survivors of sexual assault were helpful, even though he was “raised very well” by his mom and older sisters at home.

“When these issues about sexual assault come up, I take it very seriously,” Borges said. “I think to myself, ‘Why don’t people take this more serious? Why don’t they behave themselves?’ I don’t know why it is that difficult.”

A couple audience members, though, felt the panel ended before they could ask what they wanted.

“I would have asked them to speak more about the fact that men can also be victims,” Ceven Webb, a freshman music education major in Alpha Tau Omega, said.

Also attending for IFC requirements, but not for Alpha Tau Omega, was sophomore Luke Foster, a digital sports production major. This panel, he said, was the third time he had been educated about sexual assault at Ball State either through the university or through his fraternity.

Right now, SGA has not fully planned another event for IFC members to attend before Jan. 31.

Contact Sara Barker with comments at slbarker3@bsu.edu or on Twitter at @sarabarker326.