Update From the Ithacuddle

By Bryn

Hello, NEAN! It was wonderful having lots of you fine troublemakers in our town for the last general assembly. Ithaca’s been pandemonium these past few months. There has been some great community-building downtown where the folks at Ghost Cat Collective have declared, “Food Not Lawns!” and turned their tiny, street-front property into vegetable gardens and a mini cornfield. The whole neighborhood is tantalized by this idea, some word of other community gardens is blooming, and in general people are friendlier in the neighborhood – which is great for the Ithaca Freeskool, which starts up in June.

Up at Cornell University, it hasn’t been so lovely, but it’s been exciting. An autonomous group organically came together around the urge to stop the rape culture at the school, which emerges especially from the fraternities and sororities. This culture has always been here (and everywhere in our society!), but the final straw was a recent persecution of a young woman who was sexually assaulted at a frat and then subsequently forced out of school because the administration said she had a drug problem and “got herself into bad situations.” Little was being done to seek justice for this woman, and the at least 25 percent of other people on every college campus that experience sexual assault. Until now, that is.

Our group, Sexual Violence Resistance Network, is not officially an anarchist group, but anarchists participating in and heading up the group have really pushed everyone else to take a more empowered, militant stand against sexual violence. Whereas groups like this are normally pretty watered down and bureaucratic, SVRN is really riling up the whole campus. We burst into one administrator’s office hours and managed to get the head honchos of the campus sent in to talk with us, which resulted in some gains. We’ve also played the polite game and scheduled lots of other meetings with people in positions of power around the school, and we have demanded justice and prescribed solutions. We have produced a zine, which we demanded that one of those head honchos pay for (and he did!). We had a raging rally that exploded into a spontaneous, militant march. We Took Back The Night. We have produced patches about consent. We are currently working hard with allies at the Women’s Resource Center on plans for a mandatory consent education program inspired by Antioch’s Sexual Offense Prevention Program for all Cornell students, and especially fraternity and sorority members.

Included in our consent education program are leadership trainings by Men Can Stop Rape for men on campus who are interested in facilitating workshops for their fellas on standards of masculinity, homophobia, consent, sexual assault, sexual expression, and all those things that Cornell men need to get into their heads. Also, we are designing a revamped reporting system for survivors of assault that is safe, extralegal and actually packs a punch to the perpetrators. In general, SVRN ain’t taking shit from nobody, and we’re getting what this whole campus needs. It’s a movement in which members feel ownership, feel inspired, and feel empowered. I think that for the folks who started this effort, NEAN was a real catalyst in terms of giving us faith that we could build and sustain this community.

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