Stony Brook Fights Sexual Assault

By Jimin Kim and Bridget Downes

This April, Stony Brook University hosted its largest ever Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). A total of 33 events took place in just 22 days to inform students and the community on how to prevent sexual assault.

Student groups and university organizations collaborated to hold a variety of sexual assault awareness programs. Each event took its own unique approach in teaching students on how to prevent sexual assault, or power-based violence.

While one or two presentations a week about sexual assault awareness is typical for Christine Szaraz, the Prevention and Outreach Counselor for the Center for Prevention and Outreach (CPO), she attended up to four events each day in April.

“I’ll never say no to these presentations because it’s taken my entire career here at Stony Brook to see the level of demand for these kinds of services reach this peak,” said Szaraz.

Reported rape decreased in Suffolk County and New York state in 2012. But, sexual assault reports increased at Stony Brook that year. According to an SBU campus police report, there were 17 sexual assaults at SBU in 2012, which is five more than in 2011 and 10 more than in 2010.

In addition, the recent scandal of SBU alumna Sarah Tubbs who sued the school for “deliberate indifference” for how it handled her sexual assault case has drawn more attention to the topic of sexual assault on college campuses.

Moderator Christine Szaraz stood on the podium as campus officials spoke about preventing sexual assault and resources for victims at the Panel Discussion on Campus Sexual Assault Policies and Resources. Photo by  Jimin Kim (April 29, 2015).
Moderator Christine Szaraz stood on the podium as campus officials spoke about preventing sexual assault and presented resources for rape victims at the Panel Discussion on Campus Sexual Assault Policies and Resources. Photo by Jimin Kim (April 29, 2015).

According to Szaraz who moderated the Panel Discussion on Campus Sexual Assault Policies and Resources on campus, sexual assault has always been a problem in colleges in the U.S.

“I think what may contribute to the idea that the level of intensity around violence has increased, or maybe there’s more violence than there ever was is the media attention and presence,” Szaraz said.

Michelle Tepper, left, sat on the panel with Karen Dybus, right, physician assistant for SBU's Student Health Service, who spoke about how her department addresses sexual assault. Photo by  Jimin Kim (April 29, 2015).
Michelle Tepper, left, sat on the panel with Karen Dybus, right, physician assistant for SBU’s Student Health Service, who spoke about how her department addresses sexual assault. Photo by Jimin Kim (April 29, 2015).

She discussed how sexual assault goes beyond the physical attack commonly associated with rape. She said that people today are more educated on what actually qualifies as rape, which is when someone has sex with a person who simply says no. This has led to more people identifying and reporting sexual assault.

“If someone thinks that rape is this really narrow limited set of circumstances, it’s just a stranger jumping out of the bushes with a knife or a gun, then you’re not going to see a whole range of circumstances that legally qualify as rape even if it’s happening right in front of you,” said Szaraz.

Johnathan Sacco explains the steps students should take when they identify someone who is in danger of sexual assault. Photo by  Jimin Kim (April 29, 2015).
SUFA President Matthew Sacco explained the steps students should take when they identify someone who is in danger of sexual assault. Photo by Jimin Kim (April 23, 2015).

Matthew Sacco, a senior English major at SBU, tried to inform students that sexual assault can manifest itself in more subtle ways. He is the president and founder of Students United for Action (SUFA), and organized a campaign called “Light in the Dark” where members inform students about how to intervene as a bystander witnessing sexual assault. During the evening of Thursday, April 23, SUFA members taped glow sticks to pamphlets with information about bystander intervention and handed them out to students.

Johnathan Sacco hands out a flier and a glow stick about sexual assault bystander prevention to students in the Union. Photo by  Jimin Kim (April 29, 2015).
Matthew Sacco hands out a flier and a glow stick about sexual assault bystander prevention to students in the Union. Photo by Jimin Kim (April 23, 2015).

The glow sticks were intended to invite more students to hear the members discuss their mission, rather than trying to gain their attention by simply giving them a piece of paper. The Student Union was their main destination where crowds of sororities and fraternities huddled around the entrance, waiting for their rides to attend house parties off campus.

“After doing this outreach for a very long time, you understand when someone is ready to have a conversation or even when having a conversation about sexual assault is triggering someone’s personal experiences,” said Sacco, who spent the night handing out glow sticks to students and engaging them in conversations about the mission of “Light in the Dark.”

SUFA President Jonathan Sacco discusses with SUFA volunteers, Kathleen Loverde and Tanya Barbot about their strategy for handing glow sticks and pamphlets to students about how to stop sexual assault as a bystander. Photo by  Jimin Kim (April 29, 2015).
Matthew Sacco discusses with SUFA volunteers, Kathleen Loverde, a junior business major, and Tanya Barbot, a junior psychology and sociology double major, about a strategy for informing students on how to stop sexual assault as a bystander. Photo by Jimin Kim (April 29, 2015).

“It’s been really amazing to be a part of this because I’ve had so many great conversations with people and I think it’s been really amazing empowering advocates who really didn’t know how  to address the issue.”

A core theme of SAAM was emphasizing that sexual assault doesn’t discriminate whom it affects.

“Sexual violence is not about women, it’s about community,” said Dr. Smita Majumdar Das, CPO Assistant Director. “Men, women, everyone is equally impacted by violence. So, when we’re looking at a community, we’re looking at how we as a community change our norms and step in when violence occurs. It’s about you, it’s about me, it’s about everyone to play our part in this.”

SUFA volunteer Tanya Barbot sticks in a student’s backpack a glow stick and its accompanying flier featuring information about stopping sexual assault as a bystander. Photo by Jimin Kim (April 23, 2015).

Tanya Barbot, a junior psychology and sociology double major, volunteered to help SUFA with their “Light in the Dark” event. She sought to inform both male and female students about the issue of bystander intervention.

“There’s a lot of people who are afraid to step in because they feel like they don’t really have a say in what’s going on or they’re afraid of the repercussions of what can happen,” Tanya Barbot said, as students chattered around her in their fraternity or sorority groups. “But, they need to understand that they need to protect other people.”

“Light in the Dark” wasn’t the only event on SBU that looked to spread sexual assault awareness. On April 27, junior english major, Christine Publik, hosted an event titled “50 Shades of Grey Areas” in the H Quad on campus. She used the event to tackle the important issue of how to define sexual consent, and to avoid the “grey” areas.

“Consent is defined by SBU as a negation or the act of saying no,” said Publik. “Rape culture, victim blaming and what people think consent is in general is really important for me because the policies are there, but there are so much more in between like the ‘grey’ areas.”

The “50 Shades of Grey Areas” event on April 27 sought to help students understand how to define sexual consent and prevent sexual assault. Photo by Bridget Downes (April 27, 2015).
The “50 Shades of Grey Areas” event on April 27 sought to help students understand how to define sexual consent and prevent sexual assault. Photo by Bridget Downes (April 27, 2015).

Publik’s event title is a play on words in reference to the highly acclaimed and controversial book and movie adaptation “50 Shades of Grey.” The story drew attention to abusive relationships, which is closely associated with domestic violence and sexual assault. Some argued that the relationship between the two characters falsely portrayed a positive BDSM relationship. Hence, Publik’s use of the title “50 Shades of Grey Areas.”

Groups of students marched on Wed. April 14 at the academic mall to protest against sexual violence in the “Walk in their Shoes,” event. Photo by Bridget Downes (April 14, 2015).
Groups of students marched on April 14 at the academic mall to protest against sexual violence in the “Walk in their Shoes” event. Photo by Bridget Downes (April 14, 2015).

Additionally, groups of students gathered on the afternoon of April 14 for a march through the SBU academic mall. This event was called “Walk in their Shoes,” and was hosted by one of the campus sororities and Megan Smedley, an internship consultant at the SBU Career Center. Participants shouted, “Stop the violence, stop the silence,” catching the attention of many onlookers with their energy.

With the wide array of sexual assault awareness programs that took place this April, Szaraz plans to host even more events next year. She compared the amount of focus students gave to sexual assault awareness when she graduated from SBU in 2003 to the attention the topic draws today.

“So, what I’m seeing is the temperature generally having come up if we’re looking at warmer being better and more people getting involved and engaged,” said Szaraz. “When I was a student, I would say that the temperature was rather cool. It was tepid water. But, now the water is really warm. I don’t think we’re simmering, but we’re approaching that simmering point.”

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Data Journalism Changing the News

What is data journalism?

According to analytics for fun, data journalism is journalism done with data. Pretty simple right?

To help explain this more, Simon Rogers, the date editor at Twitter, broke dow the key aspects with data journalism. To define it, he suggests that data journalism is about three things: telling stories with numbers, finding the best way to tell the story, and the techniques with which you tell the story.

Examples are the best way to have data journalism explained, and one of the best examples out there is the full text visualization of the Iraq war logs.

AP, the media site that started the visual, said they wanted to go a step further, by designing a visualization based on the the richest part of each report: the free text summary. The problem was that AP then had to somehow visualize thousands of written documents of data points.

PC: Screen shot
PC: Screen shot  

Above is a picture of the 11,616 SIGACT (“significant action”) reports from December 2006. Each dot is report is a dot.

Screenshot 2015-04-21 23.41.08 Screenshot 2015-04-21 23.42.05

AP quoted making putting the data together in order to help their audience understand the information better than if it was just numbers on a page.

“Visualization is metaphor. Certain details are thrown away, other are emphasized. The algorithms used to produce the visualization have their own sensitivities and blind spots. Without understanding these, a viewer will make false inferences.”

Because data journalism is so hard to define and so broad in the definition it already has, data journalism doesn’t have to stop at charts like these. Data journalism could be a moving charts, re-adjusting pictures, anything that helps get the point of numbers across in a way that isn’t just with numbers.

Data driven journalism helps understand war better

Data is typically used for statistics, finances, numerical trends and other news-worthy stories requiring numbers, but it can also be used to demonstrate information regarding war.

Currently, the most vulnerable Arab nation, Yemen, is under strife with clashes between the Yemeni government, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Houthi rebel group, security forces still loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh and more recently, ISIS. Foreign help, such as Saudi Airstrikes against Houthi rebels and other forces, were brought about to help regain stability. The nation is down-trodden that the UN human rights commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein said the nation “is on the verge of total collapse.”

The New York Times published a data-story titled “Mapping Chaos in Yemen,” detailing where clashes occurred, which factions have control and where. For the most part, the only factions detailed are Al-Qaeda and the Houthis.

Dots on one map show where Saudi-led airstrikes have occurred. Shaded areas on the same map show Houthi territory and where they expanded after the strikes. What is not mentioned is if the strikes empowered the Houthis to expand or if what looks like an expansion is just them moving to different locations. It also mentioned how many people were killed or injured in certain places.

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 1.27.06 PM
Map from The New York Times

The second map shows the progress of Houthi movement from where they had the most influence at one point to today.

Map from The New York Times.
Map from The New York Times.

The last map shows where Al-Qaeda is operating, where the US and other nations led military action and where. Two things regarding this map: The first thing is that military is denoted in clusters of squares. The clusters vary in size, but there is no information as to why the sizes vary. My guess is the size differences show the scale-size of a strike. The other thing, which I would have done, is it doesn’t show a comparison of Houthi-controlled territory juxtaposed with that of Al-Qaeda’s. No map shows this side-by-side comparison, which is what I would have liked to see.

Map from The New York Times.
Map from The New York Times.

Overall, the story does satisfactorily tell the Yemeni situation using data and numbers.

Social media panel addresses important trends

Writing an article is something that a journalist does all the time, but that is not where the story ends. In recent years, social media has changed the media world, and made reporting go past the pad and pen.

On Saturday, April 18 at Hofstra University, the Society of Professional Journalists Region 1 Conference held a panel to discuss not only how social media has effected change in the world of journalism, but how it will continue to do just that.

Speaking to an auditorium full of professionals along with students in the Student Center Theatre were social media savants from different areas of the business. Shawn Brown of News12, who graduated from Stony Brook University, works for News12.

Brittany VanBibber is the associate social media editor for AOL.com, recently coming out of the New York University Journalism program.

In the broadcast realm, Jenny Earl represented CBS News, as she is a social media producer for the company.

Now, as interesting as names and titles may or may not be, the key to the panel, mediated by Professor Carl Corry of Stony Brook University, formerly of Newsday.com and News12 Interactive, was that everyone had a different opinion.

Questions from the crowd ranged from a wide variety of topics, without necessarily one school of thought. How many posts should a person make in a day? How should somebody deal with the privacy issue associated with social media? All of those do have answers, but depending on the field, the answer may not always be the same, so that is my takeaway.

Brown’s focus was getting his material up on Facebook. Working for a television station. His reasoning behind that was to add more than just a written component. For breaking news, words have to out out as quickly as possible on Twitter, but that goes away, and fast.

The advantage of Facebook is that it can provide a text box and visual to support the overall telling of a story. While it may be interesting to hear that Alex Rodriguez hit that monstrous walk-off home run to win the New York Yankees the World Series in front of a boisterous crowd, people want to see that.

On the other hand, for groups like AOL.com, tweets are not always going to be that way. They are mostly going to be the soft news, or the niche stories that catch somebody’s eye as being different. In that manner, every word counts as when something does not drastically affect the world, the headline of the story is all there is to make a reader click a link.

One thing I was surprised by was how important leaving a link in or not is. Who would have known that could effect the viewership by that much?

Social media mayhem before and after JRN 320

Prior to the start of JRN 320, I had attempted to increase my social media presence by starting a Tumblr, where I’d post mostly game and comic reviews and blog posts about whatever nerdy thing I was into at the moment.

I realized that it’s really hard to get Tumblr followers if I’m not posting porn or Doctor Who.

But during the class, I tried something else. I had never live-tweeted an event before taking this class and doing the first assignment, though I was sure I had a solid grasp of what needed to be done for it to work.

Inspired by that assignment, and by what I had seen major gaming sites do in the past, I decided that a weekend trip up to Boston for PAX East 2015, one of the largest video-gaming conventions in the world, would be a prime time for some live-action journalism.

I performed the majority of my live tweets from The Stony Brook Press’s account, as I was trying to boost our social media presence and truth be told, we managed to grab a few followers from outside of Stony Brook.

I did my best to relay a solid amount of all the cool things I saw, including panels from industry insiders providing tips on everything from how to break into the industry, to what makes video game music so great.

By the end of the first day, I realized how exhausting live coverage is, especially when it’s being done entirely from a cell-phone.

By far the worst part was using the WordPress app to upload updates to my article on sbpress.com and having to navigate to Twitter with my phone’s browser to get the embed codes for my tweets.

It was a wonderful experience though, one I hope to do again and relatively often.

Since then, a few other reporters have live-tweeted events from the @SBPress Twitter account, somewhat inspired by my efforts, including the Oscars and Wrestlemania and the NCAA finals, and every time it has garnered the account a few more new followers.

Addicted to Social Media

I have always been social media savvy. My first encounter was when I was 12-years-old and I created a Meetspot, which feels like centuries ago at this point.

At around the age of 13 is when I started living off of Myspace. Constantly posting updates of my dramatic teenage life, and consistent fights over who was in my top eight.

As time progressed Myspace died and I moved onto FaceBook, as did everyone else. Again, posting my everyday life because I found it to be necessary, for whatever reason.

Photo Credit: Crafttruck.com
Photo Credit: Crafttruck.com

It wasn’t until a couple years ago did social media play an actual importance to my life. When I first created a Facebook and Instagram account they were both just in their beginning stages.

Now I use them for networking, receiving news and just keeping up to date with recent trends.

One social media site I wasn’t to fond of was Twitter. That was until my journalism 301 professor suggested to create one and stressed the importance to do so. He went on and on about how crucial it will be for our future jobs and careers.

Photo Credit: Huffingtonpost.com
Photo Credit: Huffingtonpost.com

So naturally I created one. Never used it.

Now, in my current semester, I have finally put Twitter to use. In my journalism 320 class, it was required to use the social site. Other than the class assignments, I still never use it.

Nothing personal against Twitter but I just prefer Facebook and Instagram. Here and there I will ‘Tweet’, still not as often as others. I still have more followers on Instagram than I do Twitter, but I still follow Twitter accounts that I find interesting, though I usually do not check.

All in all I can say throughout this class it has boosted my social media skills in a sense. I’ve never used social media to report a story, so that is something new to add to my list. Also I have never written a blog post before, which I think is the most important skill I have learned so far, and will continue to use and advance.