OPRF continues to “Set the Exepectation”

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OPRF continues to “Set the Exepectation”

Photo courtesy of Danny Lingen

Photo courtesy of Danny Lingen

Photo courtesy of Danny Lingen

Photo courtesy of Danny Lingen

Julia Youman, Staffer

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On Tuesday, Sept. 3, hundreds of OPRF students – male and female – were wearing white. 

Historically, wearing white has been considered an act of political resistance that can be traced back to the suffragette movement. Today, the color is frequently worn to represent sisterhood and women’s movements, reflecting the progress women have made since the fight for suffrage. More recently, in 2017, House Democratic women wore white to Donald Trump’s first joint address to Congress, and again in 2019. Similar to the agenda of the women at the 2019 address, OPRF students aimed to combat sexual assault. 

Students dressed up on the first day of spirit week that the OPRF club, Women in Leadership (WIL) implemented this year. It was inspired by Brenda Tracy’s organization, Set the Expectation. The dress-up days were just one facet of the week, as the club also collected toiletries and sold t-shirts and stickers to raise money for local domestic violence help center, Sarah’s Inn.

“We wanted to do a spirit week because we felt like it would truly involve each individual in the student body,” stated officer and senior, Meredith Revsine. “Seeing your peers dressing up to support such a meaningful cause creates a sense of unity and solidarity.” Revsine said that it was important to the officers that every student voice was heard and everyone contributed to making OPRF a safer space. 

Senior officer Micah Daniels spoke about how the serious nature of sexual assault is relevant, yet students are sometimes nervous to start such an intense conversation. The spirit week was a way “to get people involved without feeling the weight of sexual assault at every moment,” commented Daniels. “People that I thought really didn’t care about raising awareness against sexual assault, or of sexual assault in general, participated.”

Club sponsor Nimmi Baghri reflected on day one of the spirit week. “Seeing the number of students dressed in all white, coming back from a three-day weekend, made me really appreciative of the conversations we were having.” She knew the spirit week was successful when a slew colleagues and students were coming up to her in the hallways, expressing how grateful they were for the awareness and discussions the spirit week had fostered. 

These relevant discussions surrounding sexual assault come in the wake of the #MeToo movement, an initiative that began over 10 years ago. The phrase “Me too” was originally coined as a way to help women who had survived sexual assault come forward. Daniels commented how, “Survivors of sexual assault have internalized it…(T)hey think what they went through was not a big deal. But it is, and we have to try and get our generation to take multiple steps in the right direction to end…sexual assault.” In recent years, the phrase “Me too” has been used as the slogan for a global anti-sexual harassment movement.  The viral movement has shed light on how often sexual assault and harassment in entertainment and politics goes unnoticed. 

Going off this global initiative, the second theme of the week was “Denim Day,” based off the official day on April 24. The day was created  in oppostition to a case in Rome, in 1992, where a 45-year-old man was accused of raping an 18-year-old girl. The man was originally convicted, however after appealing to the Italien Supreme Court, his conviction was overturned. The court argued that since the girl was wearing tight, skinny jeans, she must have helped the man take off her jeans, thus the sex was consensual. 

“Even a simple thing like intentionally wearing a jean jacket really meant the most to me and I’m sure many others as well.” Daniels said. Although the case happened over 20 years ago, that kind of reasoning surrounding sexual assault persists. “I think [the spirit week] was important because sexual assault is a very real, incredibly fighening thing that many people have normalized,” continued Daniels.

Even though it was only three days, Revsine hoped the biggest takeaway from the spirit week was that, “Set the Expection is more than just a week, it’s an entire lifetime mindset. No matter who you are or what gender you identify with, it is important to be aware of Brenda Tracy’s story and the stories of other survivors.”

At the end of the last school year, sexual assault survivor and activist Brenda Tracy came and spoke to the OPRF junior and senior classes, sharing her story of survival. Additionally, students were chosen to lead conversations with their peers centered around healthy relationships and sexual assault. 

The mission statement of Set the Expectation is to “combat sexual and physical violence through raising awareness, education and direct engagement with coaches, young men, and boys in high school and collegiate athletic programs.”  Tracy specifically aims to talk to the 90 percent of men who do not rape, as she believes it is up to them to put an end to it. “I hope that everyone is committed to being part of the 90 percent and supporting survivors,” expressed Revsine. 

Daniels said that at the end of Tracy’s story, “she told our school that we should support our local organization that helps survivors of sexual assault.” From there, WIL officers decided to raise awareness for Set the Expectation, while collecting monetary and physical donations for Sarah’s Inn. 

On the timing of the spirit week, Bahgri stated, “I spoke to Ms. Carlson and asked ‘how can we set the expectation from day one?’”  She also explained that they wanted the week to lead up the first home football game. She went back to her club officers and let them take the lead from there. Over the summer, they worked on a video to raise awareness, designed t-shirts and stickers to sell, and worked on incorporating different athletic teams at OPRF. 

By Thursday, the last day of the spirit week, WIL had successfully sold almost all of their 1000 t-shirts designed by Revsine. The t-shirts donned the OPRF logo, but in different colors instead of the expected orange and blue. The logo was done in teal and purple, the symbolic colors of sexual assault and dometic violence awareness, repectively. These are also the colors that comprise the logo for Set the Expectation. 

WIL reached out to the teams and gave them the t-shirts to wear and had them sit in at lunch tables to help sell the merchandise. Additionally, team members signed pledges to stand against sexual assault. Girl’s volleyball and tennis had games in honor of Set the Expectation, while the football team wore the organization’s logo on their helmet. 

The spirit week was student-driven by members of WIL with the help of their sponsor, Baghri. After pulling in thousands of dollars and a tremendous amount of supplies, they have high expectations for next year. Reflecting on the week as a whole, Daniels stated, “I think it was successful because a fair amount of people participated. Hopefully even more will next year.” 

Baghri also noted, “The goal is always to improve on what we have…The goal was to get the entire school involved…This was for all students, not just outgoing, but incoming students, too.” Since only upperclassmen heard Tracy’s presentation, Baghri stressed that WIL wanted to “help current students be self aware and be apart of the 90 percent.”

In just four years, WIL has grown from just three members to approximately 85. Each year, they try and implement one new event that facilitates opportunities for members in the community. For students who want to further get involved with Set the Expectation and WIL, Baghri exclaimed, “our door is open to everyone who wants to participate..we truly want to hear everyone’s voice.” Although WIL is dominated by female members, the club has had male allies in the past and are always looking for males to join their club. Baghri suggested that they “should come to the meetings and voice what their desires are and bring to the officers what they are interested in.” 

WIL meets in 371 every Tuesday morning and students are encouraged to show up, take part in discussions, and sign up for one of the various opportunities to give back to the community.