This College Encouraged Students To Masturbate To Prevent Sexual Assault

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Curbing sexual violence is a central concern on college campuses across the country, and harassment training has become a fixture at many orientation weeks with seminars about consent and binge-drinking. But Rochester Institute of Technology gave its freshman students an unorthodox suggestion — masturbate.

During a freshman orientation seminar on sexual assault prevention, more than 2,800 incoming students were told to imagine that sexual encounters have traffic lights. If they got a red light, and their partner withdrew consent, they should stop and instead go home and, “rub one out,” or “Roo,” according to six RIT students in the presentation who spoke with the Cut.

On one slide, the Disney character, Roo — the young Kangaroo from Disney’s Winnie the Pooh series — appeared on screen in front of students as a presenter explained: “Self gratification can prevent sexual assault.”

Minutes after the slide appeared, audience members shared the image on Twitter and Instagram, which prompted a backlash across campus and social media. Students turned Roo into a meme, with jokes about the different times one might “Roo.” Alumni were furious. Days later, RIT had to issue a message to the student body in response, and explain their thinking. RIT’s President David Munson issued an apology.

Meanwhile, women on campus say now they don’t feel comfortable talking about sexual assault with campus administrators. An 18-year-old female freshman at RIT, who asked not to be identified out of fear of retaliation, told the Cut:

“It made me very scared to say that I have experienced sexual assault. Because now I get the impression that people on campus think it is a joke. I am concerned that if I ran into an issue like that again, or want to talk about my previous experience that it wouldn’t be treated as a serious issue by administrators. It made me very uncomfortable, and I felt like I was being insulted.”

Annie E. Clark, the co-founder of End Rape on Campus, says that RIT’s approach is deeply flawed as it makes light of a serious crime and presents an overly simplistic view of what constitutes sexual assault.

“I think they need a new presentation and to apologize to their students,” Clark told the Cut. “Students need accurate information that explains that sexual violence is a serious crime; they need to know that if they chose to commit this crime there will be consequences. This solution of masturbation that the school presented is overly simplistic, and not helpful, and not accurate. Sexual violence is a targeted crime that people chose to commit, and to reduce it to something that can be solved by masturbating I think is highly uneducated and very misguided.”

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