Houston Hall was filled with a different kind of chatter Tuesday night, as Penn students and campus leaders came together for a TableTalk event on rape culture and its presence at Penn.
TableTalk is a campus organization that serves as a forum for students with diverse knowledge of a subject to come together and engage in an ongoing conversation on a hot-button topic. Typically, TableTalk invites club leaders who champion similar causes to come together and moderate discussions.
“Leaders that maybe are united under the same umbrella of work at Penn never really get to collaborate because they put on their own events,” College senior and co-president of TableTalk Sophie Beren said. “It’s cool that we get to bring together not only the Penn community to talk about this but also the leaders that are at the forefront of these efforts.”
The rape culture discussions were led by campus leaders from Penn Anti-Violence Educators, Penn Association for Gender Equity, Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention, Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault, Penn Women SPEAK, The Panhellenic Council, The Inter-Fraternity Council, feminist literary magazine The F Word and the Penn Women’s Center.
College senior Chaz Smith, a member of MARS and PAVE, moderated one of the discussions Tuesday evening.
“So many things have happened on both the campus scale and national scale that are finally getting attention,” Smith said, referencing the timeliness of a rape culture forum. “Things like this have always been happening and perpetrators have always been assaulting but people are finally having a public discussion so we’re breaking ground.”
Wharton junior and one of the heads of the TableTalk committee, Parker Brown, discussed the importance of having these conversations now so they can translate into action in the future.
“I think that self-awareness is huge,” Brown stated. “We are talking about it so that next time you see something like this happen, you’ll think about having these conversations there.”
The discussion centered around defining and providing examples of rape culture, discussing its prevalence on Penn’s campus and other settings and hypothesizing solutions to prevent the proliferation.
While most people agreed that solving the issue of rape culture may take time, TableTalk board members and event moderators said they hope the event opened avenues for future conversations between Penn students.
“We are in a way de-stigmatizing these topics to be brought up and talked about,” Beren said. “We hope that people continue the conversation.”
“For bystanders, remaining silent helps nothing,” Smith said. “It only hurts the cause more because it’s allowing people to go unpunished, unchecked and unaccounted for and people will continue to do these horrible acts behind closed doors.”