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Zero shades freed: Sexual assault prevention presentation

(Photo courtesy of Collegiate empowerment) Zero shades freed is the third installment of the Zero shades series.

Zach Lungi and Alex Decato-Roed
Connector Staff

Representative of Collegiate Empowerment, Alix Feathers, recalled a moment when she was sitting in her hotel room, reviewing slides for an upcoming Zero Shades presentation. Feathers came across one slide that discussed consent, including what words and actions do not equate to it.

When Feathers originally joined Collegiate Empowerment, the Zero Shades presentation was a one-part series. She has since introduced the idea to turn it into a three-piece learning module. UMass Lowell students wore green, purple and pink with the Greek symbols representing their sororities and fraternities at UCrossing for the Zero Shades Freed presentation on Feb.1 . This event was the final installment of the three-part Zero Shades series. Feathers addressed this room full of students to promote the necessity of cultivating healthy relationships.

This installment reinforced the lessons of Zero Shades of Gray and Zero Shades Darker, asking students to recall the rules of consent, “verbal, sober, and mutual.” The importance of boundaries were also reinforced with other phrases such as, “All types of unwanted penetration is rape” and “Don’t rape,” which were projected onto a screen in the middle of the room. Feathers spoke on how sexual assault isn’t always violent, and that our culture tells women not to get raped instead of telling others in our communities to not rape.

The presentation’s black and white theme signified that sexual assault is a black and white issue, and there is never a grey area. Feathers began her presentation by asking students, “Why are you really here?” The question was met with silence and the audience’s anxiously moving legs,  displaying the uncomfortable nature of the topic.

The presentation discussed how students could be better supporters for victims of sexual assault. Listening, believing, patience, showing understanding and giving assurance were stated as some of the things that students could do for sexual assault victims. Asking for a hug was an example of how students can support and help bring back consent into the lives of sexual assault survivors.

During the first portion of Feather’s presentation, she asked students another question: “What makes a good relationship?” The crowd responded with terms like “loyalty,” “love,” “patience” and “passion.” She then used her own marriage to describe these ideas and further explain how important it is to foster positive romantic and platonic relationships.

“The way we prevent assault is to have relationships where it can’t exist in the first place,” said Feathers. She addressed the fact that most sexual assault cases involve people who already know each other.

Feathers asked the students what they wanted from their organizations. Students said that they wanted diversity, respect for others, open-mindedness, passion and drive.

The emphasis of this event was to educate students on what healthy relationships and communication looks like. These are not only the building blocks to a safer campus but also a healthier overall life.

“I think the idea of looking out for one another as students is very important, and that’s why we try to make sure we encourage that through our student population,” said Assistant Director of Student Activities and Leadership, Michael Kennedy.

The Zero Shades Freed presentation also aimed to help students identify the “five love languages,” and how they can help improve relationships. Feathers questioned the idea of searching for the right partner for oneself.

“It shouldn’t be about finding the right partner but being the right partner,” said Feathers. “Healthy relationships are ones where you feel free.”

The presentation additionally emphasized the importance of treating others the way they want to be treated, or the “Platinum Rule.” This rule helps foster consent in non-romantic relationships by asking for permission.

When students were asked to reflect on what they learned from Feather’s presentation, a common insight was how to be a better friend, supporter and partner.

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