It took Tim Mousseau a long time to get the power to share his experience with sexual assault as a survivor. And a large part of that empowerment came from talking with other survivors and understanding what other people had gone through.
On Wednesday evening, Mousseau came to Ohio University to create conversation regarding the importance of consent as the keynote speaker for Take Back the Night Week. Mousseau gave his speech titled “Retaking Our Story: Reframing the Sexual Assault Conversation” in Walter Rotunda. About 115 people attended the speech.
The power of storytelling is important, Mousseau said. Throughout the speech, he emphasized knowing people on the basis of their experiences.
“Every single one of us has a story,” Mousseau said during his speech. “We use stories to connect people to ideas that we could not ourselves explain. Stories are the hallmark of how we create change in society.”
Mousseau said people stray from creating the conversation regarding sexual assault unless it happens to someone they know. That is why he wants to change the way people talk about sexual assault.
He encourages survivors to not be ashamed of themselves and to understand that the assault was not their fault. It’s important for survivors to get support from the people around them, he said.
“Having those support groups was very incremental in that, as well as talking to my friends and family and having their support,” Mousseau said in his speech.
When Mousseau’s boss found out about his status as a survivor, his boss asked him if he was talking about it for attention. People questioned Mousseau as they believe that “men would not let themselves get raped.”
“No one should ever have to go through what I had to go through,” Mousseau said in his speech.
One out of every 10 victims of rape identify as male, according to RAINN.
Mousseau wants everyone understand that sexual violence encompasses everything from stalking to penetrative rape.
He asked the audience, especially men who are not committing sexual violence, what they can do to decrease it.
“I cannot do this alone because I am just one person,” Mousseau said in his speech. “If enough people start doing these small things over time, you will get there. There is no other answer. I need you to do these small things.”
Mousseau argued for the need of a better sex education program in America. He believes that the conversation regarding sex is omitted from a lot of families and in school programs.
“At the very bare minimum, what we are doing is we are teaching people how to have safe sex. There is a very large difference between safe, protective sex and healthy, enjoyable sex,” Mousseau said.
Paige McCluskey, a freshman studying journalism, liked the way Mousseau spoke and the information he added to his speech. McCluskey said he was a really good speaker, and he had a grasp on what he was saying.
“If I ever go to parties in the future and I see things like that happening, I will definitely try to step in and be like ‘hey is everything okay here’ and just try to intervene,”McCluskey said.
Mousseau also highlighted the importance of bystander intervention and engagement, which is when a person sees someone who could be affected by sexual violence and steps in to help.
Natalie D’Apolito, a sophomore studying strategic communication, said she never realized how much of a difference there was in people wanting to intervene for a stranger compared to their best friend. But now, D’Apolito knows how important it is to intervene even if she doesn’t know the person.
“I would also wanna spread more of how consent isn’t just a word, it is a conversation,” D’Apolito said.
Elizabeth Stermer, a graduate student studying college student personnel, believes that the event sent a positive message that the students needed to hear. Stermer said she learned a lot more about empathy and emotional support for survivors.
“We need to start by believing people and really knowing how to support them. Giving support is probably the most important thing,” Stermer said . “A first step to preventing these situations from happening is being not afraid to have these conversations candidly with people.”
Correction: A previous version of this report misstated how many people attended the event. The article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information.