On March 6, Katie Koestner, an activist against sexual assault, spoke to students as part of a special Health and Wellness Program. Koestner made headlines in 1991 after she filed a police report stating that she was raped by her date when she was a freshman at the College of William and Mary. After the press picked up her story, Koestner began lecturing at other college campuses to raise awareness, becoming the first woman to speak out about date rape.
At age 18, Koestner was on the cover of Time magazine and has since appeared on over 200 media outlets and was the subject of an HBO movie, No Visible Bruises: The Katie Koestner Story (1993). She has lectured at over 2500 schools, universities, corporations, organizations and military bases around the world on sexual assault, relationships, and technology issues. Through her activism, the term "date rape" has become part of a larger discussion around rape and sexual misconduct.
Koestner is the current director of the Take Back the Night Foundation, president of Campus Outreach Services, and serves as an advisor for other organizations to help prevent rape and other forms of sexual violence. In her address to upper mid and seniors, she recounted her struggle to speak out to college administrators, classmates, and her family.
“Although this day is dedicated to you and your relationships,” she said, “I’m also here to ask you a bigger question: What will you do, what will you risk? Because I promise you silence on any issue is the easy way out. So if you think it [something] is unfair, I challenge you to stand up, and speak out, and change it.”
After her presentation, Koestner and her colleague Gordon Braxton — who blogs about manhood and male violence — met separately with groups of upper mid and seniors to further discuss topics, including college policies on sexual misconduct and assault, abusive relationships, violence, and the culture of relationships in the age of text messaging, selfies, and Instagram.
In a separate presentation to preps and lower mids, Koestner addressed aspects of healthy relationships and discussed how gender norms can influence behavior, perceptions, and biases in relationships.
During the afternoon, a number of faculty-led breakout discussions were held covering issues such as dating violence, unhealthy relationships, power and control, harassment, and gender stereotypes.
In the name of the day’s theme of student wellness, a variety of other activities were offered to enhance community building and well-being, including yoga, meditation, open gym, trivia, board games, and cooking. The second in the Community Conversation Series was held on “Everything You Wanted to Know, But Were Afraid to Ask about Jewish Identity.”
“The purpose of the day was to dedicate time to student health and wellness with intentional programming,” said Heather Perrenoud, dean of residential life and math instructor. In the future, Perrenoud added the School intends to continue student wellness programming that is “woven throughout the year with a holistic approach to the student experience.”