SELINSGROVE — More than 900 people, including students, university administrators and area residents nearly filled Susquehanna University’s Weber Chapel auditorium Thursday night for a 90-minute lecture on recognizing the signs of sexual violence and ways to prevent it.
The University invited Dr. Keith Edwards to speak after he had contributed to the university’s common reading anthology, a book distributed to students at the start of a new year. Edwards’ specialty looks at different aspects of the male masculine myths — and truths. “The masks men wear,” he said, minutes before he began his lecture.
The speech was interactive, with Edwards challenging the audiences presuppositions about the definition of consent, when in a potentially sexual situation.
“Think of the analogy of a red, yellow and green light,” he said, “You’re kissing. Red means stop. Green means there is mutual consent to continue. Yellow, is stop, take it easy, and only proceed if there is mutual consent to do so.”
Senior Hannah Houtz, noted that Edwards’ presentation, while informative and important, was presented in an engaging manner.
“I never expected to laugh so much during a lecture on sexual violence and consent,” Houtz said.
“My primary message,” Edwards said, “is there is a lot you can do on campus to change the culture and be a part of the solution to preventing sexual violence. Once students realize they can make a difference, they become engaged. They talk to their peers to challenge their behaviors and create communities and cultures where sexual violence is culturally unacceptable. Where it is rare. And ideally doesn’t happen.”
If people can learn that while they are in college, he said, they’ll take that into post collegiate life, for the rest of their life.
Edwards understands his theory of social change neatly coincides with the #MeToo movement.
“That is a lot of survivors coming forward and saying ‘this is something that has happened to me,’” he said. “My approach is how do we get there before that happens? How do we not just respond well to survivors who have experienced sexual violence — which we need to do because it is a reality. And it happens. How do we get ahead of it?
“And how do we prevent the perpetrator from becoming a perpetrator?” he said. “You have to begin by knowing what sexual violence is. You have to support survivors when they come forward.”
Edwards is a former university administrator who began lecturing on the topic of preventing sexual violence prevention about four years ago, and has been speaking to young audiences ever since.