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Teach-out contribution from Sarah-Kathryn Bryan–

I have been a feminist activist since I came to UNC Chapel Hill two years ago.

I became particularly interested in Art Pope’s influence in the state of North Carolina last September, when the Pope Center published a blog post entitled, “Carpet Bombing Identity ‘Studies'”.

I am a Women’s and Gender Studies major with a minor in Latina/o Studies.

To quote the blog post’s author, George Leffe, “The purpose of ‘studies’ departments is far more political than educational.”

I would like to remind Leef and others who share this belief that all education, whether in the fields of English, Biology, or History, is inherently political, especially in this public university system threatened with the closure of entire campuses, and in light of massive budget cuts.

In addition to the $400 million in budget cuts the UNC system has already sustained, the General Assembly has proposed an additional $139 million in cuts.

But according to another Pope Center blog contributor, Jay Schalin, “Sometimes ignorance is better than education.”

Why would Art Pope, a self-purported supporter of higher education, allow his name to be associated with such statements?

The actions of North Carolina General Assembly members, whose campaigns owe their success to Art Pope’s millions of dollars in donations, speak louder than Pope Center bloggers’ words.
The General Assembly has stacked the UNC Board of Governors with white male republicans.  The majority of the newly elected members are majority white, male, republican, and businessmen, not educators.  Where are the voices of the women and the people of color who as citizens of North Carolina are stakeholders in the university  system on the Board of Governors?
The General Assembly has also levied attacks on women’s control over their own bodies.  Proposed legislation would make exposure of a woman’s breast or nipple a misdemeanor incurring up to a $1,000 fine or jail time.
Other proposed legislation would include anti-choice ideology in public sexual education curricula, specifically “induced abortion as a cause of preterm birth in subsequent pregnancies”; the CDC, WHO, and AMA have found no correlation between the two.
By supporting the misinformation of young people, by legislating sanctions on women’s bodies, and ensuring that the UNC Board of Governors only represents a small percentage of the North Carolina population, the General Assembly is working in the best interests of their financial benefactors (like Art Pope).  They are not working to foster a more prosperous future for North Carolinians.

I feel honored to have spoken out alongside so many brave survivors from our community today.  I have transcribed my statement below in hopes that it will help empower other people to speak up about their experiences with violence.

My name is Sarah-Kathryn Bryan, and I am in my second year at the University.

First, I’d like to thank everyone who has come to support the UNC-Chapel Hill community of sexual assault survivors, as well as those who could not attend today, but who have expressed their solidarity with survivors, and who continue to struggle with us for justice.  Several of us are primary or secondary survivors of sexual assault, but it is not necessary to recognize a shared experience of sexual assault in order to work together.

Today’s impressive attendance testifies to the potential strength of our Carolina community where society has previously failed us.  The act of coming to a Speak Out implicitly expresses a commitment to ending violence.  This commitment comes from the understanding that if sexual assault is even a conceivable threat to anyone, every one of us lives in a culture of violence in which none of us is invulnerable to violence in one form or another.

We must hold perpetrators of all forms of abuse (including sexual abuse, the abuse of state power, and cultural abuse) accountable for their actions.  And as a community, we must hold each other accountable for bringing perpetrators to justice in a way that benefits both the survivor and our community as a whole.  Any other outcome subjects survivors to renewed trauma and frustration.

I speak today as a non-reporting survivor.  The first time I was sexually assaulted, I was thirteen years old.  As a young person, I was not empowered to access the healthcare –let alone the sympathy– I needed in the wake of the assault.  Having been raised in a culture of violence that teaches victim-blaming even in the absence of comprehensive sexual education, I remained silent about the assault for months, and did not tell my parents for years.  I am only beginning to repair what damage the silence wrought on my interpersonal relationships.

Age is one of a host of factors that complicate a survivor’s ability to report a sexual assault.  To name a few, race able status, religion, gender expression, sexuality, age, and socioeconomic status make reporting any crime to the authorities less a matter of choice than of circumstance and courage.

In order to eliminate victim-blaming, which is the first step to holding perpetrators accountable and eliminating violence from our culture, we must support the methods of care and avenues to justice the survivors in our lives seek.  This may never be easy until we learn that because our struggle for justice and freedom from violence is a shared one, we disempower ourselves when we appropriate, ignore, or actively silence the struggle of our neighbor.

Sarah-Kathryn Bryan

What was submitted:

“We applaud the Chapel Hill Town Council for passing the resolution to hold Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) to a standard of truth in advertising last Monday night.

CPCs were found to be providing false and misleading information about abortion in a 2006 Congressional report.

An advertisement in the Tarheel Beginnings student agenda for Pregnancy Support Services, a local CPC, reads, “You had plans…A baby wasn’t one of them… We can help.” This gives the impression that the organization offers pregnant women a comprehensive overview of their reproductive choices.

Pregnancy Support Services does not make referrals for abortion or birth control. Furthermore, the advertisement makes no mention of Pregnancy Support Services’ religious affiliation. In Tuesday’s edition of the Daily Tar Heel, the agency’s director described the organization as a Christian ministry.

Thousands of young people see this advertisement in the Tarheel Beginnings planners. Given the incriminating information against CPCs found in the Congressional report, we advocate that the New Student and Parent Programs that produced the agendas not accept advertisements from CPCs in the future.”

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