Canes Consent advocates sexual assault awareness despite lacking donations

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Just two UM organizations contributed donations to Canes Consent, an event hosted on campus every semester by Katharine Westaway and her class, Sex and Sexuality, WGS 350, according to Westaway.

In her opening speech at the event on The Rock Thursday, Westaway spoke about how she did not feel safe advocating for victims of sexual assault on this campus. She said this is because nearly every time she speaks out for victims she hears from UM’s attorneys.

“And I should mention that they want to be sure everyone knows I do not speak for the university, but that should be pretty evident by the end of this speech,” Westaway said.

She went on to point out those organizations that did not contribute aid towards the event: the Vice President of Student Affairs, University of Miami Police Department, the Student Health Center, the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, Housing and Resident Life, Office of Academic Advancement, Canes Care for Canes, and the Counseling Center. Westaway said that all of these organizations are the entities most responsible for sexual safety on campus. They are the ones who should be partnering with them the most for this cause, according to her.

“While it is perhaps true that these offices did not financially contribute Canes Consent this semester, each of the offices mentioned plans, develops, and promotes its own events on the topic of sexual assault awareness, healthy sexuality, and the prevention of sexual misconduct. To say that any of these offices or the professionals in these offices ‘shut down open discussion’ by not supporting this particular program financially is not a correct statement,” Assistant Vice President of Communications Margot Winick said Friday on behalf of the university.

“And I’m haunted by the climate this creates for a victim who wakes up after a party to find out she’s been raped… I can tell you, in my opinion, that right now we are unprepared to help any of these students,” said Westaway.

The two organizations that did contribute to the event were the Office of Civic and Community Engagement and Hurricane Productions. Along with their donations, students taking her course course also raised donations on their own to provide the necessary commodities for their event.

“It was very difficult this year because most of the offices that we asked didn’t want to donate to us. And a lot of people just didn’t give back to us in general, regardless of how many times we asked,” said Sania Kamran, one of Westaway’s students.

As for the event, many students gathered at The Rock to listen to the guest speakers talk about either their experience with victims of sexual assault or to spread awareness of the various organizations in South Florida aimed at preventing this from happening.

Mary Andrews, director of programs at The Women’s Fund, informed students that South Florida was the third largest area in the United States for the trafficking of minors. She advised students to look for warning signs of this act and to help stop this by reporting it to The Women’s Fund hotline.

Student speakers who themselves were victims of sexual assault urged students to support the creation of a Students Survivor’s Support Center. Westaway believes that the center could easily become an addition to the new medical center being built and that it could send a message that the school does not tolerate sexual assault of any kind.

“The university remains committed to the prevention of sexual misconduct, the education of the members of our community on this topic, and the response to related incidents when they occur and are reported through the appropriate identified channels,” Winick added.

Westaway assured students that she would be doing Canes Consent again. She said she would be conducting it every semester until the school’s assault rates drop to zero.

“Patriarchy, rape culture and corporatization of the university has brought on this crisis of sexual assault, but love, love is going to get us out,” Westaway said.

“The University remains committed to the prevention of sexual misconduct, the education of the members of our community on this topic, and the response to related incidents when they occur and are reported through the appropriate identified channels,” Winick added.

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