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This 20-year-old is fighting against sexual exploitation

March 04, 2014 12:16 IST

This 20-year-old is fighting against sexual exploitation

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Arthur J Pais

A political science student at Georgia University, Anusha Ravi tells Rediff.com's Arthur J Pais why it is important to teach students how to help survivors of sexual assault.

When Anusha Ravi heard about a 'Red Light District' themed party being held at the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity at Emory University in Atlanta, she immediately wrote to Megan Janasiewicz, director of Fraternity and Sorority Life.

In her e-mail, Ravi, 20, argued that red light districts were anything but fun for its women and their families as they are often fraught with sexual and domestic violence, drugs, minors/underage boys/girls who are held in sex slavery, and trafficking of all forms.

Red light districts are also havens for pimps to lure minority (not sure what this word means here) women of lower socio-economic status into the sex trade because these women seek financial stability, she said.

Ravi was recently featured on a CNN> special report about college students who are fighting against sexual exploitation and supporting organisations to help victims of rape and sexual assault survive and cope.

The activists also fight the recalcitrance of some American universities to deal with rape charges against their athletes.

At Emory, Ravi has mostly found officials and students willing to listen and help the fight.

Janasiewicz listened attentively to Ravi and sought to 'enlighten the brothers (the fraternity members) as to why such a theme was offensive,' Ravi said.

In her e-mail to Janasiewicz, Ravi had written, 'While it may be exaggeration to relate the theme of the party so closely to what actually occurs in the red light district, that is the underlying message of the party and it would be naive to expect a theme to remain simply a theme.'

The brothers offered to modify the concept a bit, Ravi said, but she found that offensive too. The sorority parties are held in secret and she does not know how much of the original theme remained.

"I fear that the brothers of AEPi did not truly understand the magnitude of their actions and the message that having such a party sends to Emory students, staff, administration, and alumni," Ravi wrote on sapaemory.org, a blog she has started to bring together the students and staff concerned with sexism and fighting rape and encouraging the victims to remake their lives.

The CNN programme that featured Ravi and activists on other campuses noted: 'Rape is a longstanding issue on college campuses, but the latest movement, led by student activists, survivors and faculty, recasts sexual violence as a cultural problem on campuses nationwide -- not just a series of isolated incidents. Students are taking matters into their own hands, filing complaints en masse and speaking out publicly.'

Ravi's activism started when she joined the organisations Sexual Assault Peer Advocates and Feminists in Action.

SAPA trains students to supportively and respectively respond to sexual assault by teaching them what to say, what not to say, and how to help survivors of sexual assault.

The FIA fosters dialogue on gender and sexuality issues on campus and beyond.

"Through these two organisations," Ravi said, "I began to take an interest in the way sexual violence is handled and responded to on college campuses. After attending a SAPA training, in which I was taught myths and facts surrounding the idea of sexual assault, Emory's resources for sexual assault survivors, and the most nurturing and supportive ways to respond to a survivor, I began the process of learning about sexual violence and my own position as an ally for survivors."

"From there, I was trained as peer facilitator to lead trainings of my own and a core facilitator to conduct interviews with trainees," she added.

Over 1,000 people, men and women students and staff at Emory attended the sensitivity and support action courses at Emory in the last two years, she has said.

Two years ago, Ravi also interned at the non-profit Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment. Her project for the summer was to edit and revise training material for specific topics pertaining to sexual assault -- gender roles and sexual assault, immediate medical resources for survivors, the role of drugs and alcohol.

Who inspires her?

"I get my inspiration from the brave men and women that have survived sexual assault and continue to fight for a more violence-free world for others," Ravi said. "I have definitely been incredibly inspired by my parents, who are the most hard-working and grounded people I know. They have always encouraged me to follow my passions and to engage very deeply with issues and ideas that I have passion for. I owe everything that I am solely to their guidance."


Image: Anusha Ravi, left, with a friend.