By Nathan Ploense, Contributing Writer
A year at McKendree cannot go by where Residence Life holds its famed Sex in the Dark program. While usually aimed at freshman, it offers the opportunity for students to ask sex and gender questions, in a judgment free area, and receive general answers back.
Though proven to be a popular program on campus, many students feel that it has started to run its course and become stale. Not even the offer of free food is necessarily enough to get people out of their room or break from their busy schedules to participate.
However, a new program was put in the works when Resident Assistant Elizabeth Graham wanted to re-create the old program into something that explored heavier, less talked about topics.
The beginning of the event – Michael Calhoun
When asked about why she made this program based off of Sex in the Dark Graham said, “Because sex in the dark is a light-hearted thing to do that is educational, and there’s not a light-hearted way or fun way to talk of sexual harassment and assault while being respectful. So, I had to make it into something interactive and interesting while still being respectful.”
The event was hosted in PAC lounge and surrounded the semi—circle couch at the far end of the room. Chairs quickly filled as everyone received their needed materials; a blank notecard, a pencil and a juice box. Tissues were also supplied by Residence Life in case anyone needed them.
“It was something that needed to happen, we tend to ignore the fact that sexual violence happens on this campus,” says Graham. With the many supporting offices and organizations supporting the event, I would say many others agree. Working with Graham to accomplish this type of program in a respectable and supportive manner was the Office of Student Affairs, Its on Us Week, Counseling Services, Residence Life and Call for Help. While Graham felt it was challenging to get so many people together, she said it was, “well worth it.”
Picture of Lyndellia Mannie, a speaker for Survivor Stories – Nathan Ploense
Attending students sat respectfully and listened as five separate speakers read the true stories of McKendree students that had been anonymously submitted in the prior months. Each speaker read with strong emotion as the words of victims spread awareness while also showing how sexual assault and harassment can happen in many different forms.
Between stories, Graham read out statistics regarding sexual assault rates for men, women and those who identify across the spectrum. Many were shocking to hear and when asked about them, Graham said, “I searched for hours for the reliable information I found but there just isn’t a lot of statistics for these things yet. Sexual Harassment was generally on the workplace and nearly nothing talked of it outside of that.”
Ending the program, viewers were asked to use their index card to write down anything they had to say, whether it was about the program so it could be improved or if they wanted to submit their own stories. Many cards were along the line of, “Great program, keep it up.” There were some submissions of stories whether short, or in detail that was read out by Dr. Kemp and Student Affairs Graduate Assistant Chelsea.
Messages of Support, pre-program. – Nathan Ploense
“It was much better than I expected it would be, I am happy that that many people wanted to hear about it and to share stories,” says Graham. The turnout was one of the largest Residence Life had seen in the recent year. The program would soon go on to win Program of the Year through Residence Life. Look out in the future for this program as many of those involved want to continue the program in following years.