Speaker hosts conversation about consent

Katie Koestner, MSU guest speaker, autographs a poster of herself on the cover of TIME Magazine outside of Kiowa room following the reception Aug. 30. Photo by Harlie David

“You know the end of the story before I even start.”

The room went quiet. About 100 students filled Akin Auditorium on Aug. 30, but not a single one made a sound. Katie Koestner, the first date-rape survivor to publicly share her story, stood onstage in bright red slacks and a white button down, bleached blonde hair pulled back into a low ponytail, holding a microphone to her red lips as she told the audience about her rape.

Koestner’s presentation, titled “No-Yes: A Conversation About Consent,” was sponsored by First Step, an emergency shelter for sexual assault and family violence victims.

Koestner emphasized that she was a regular girl growing up, who participated in a Miss America pageant and eventually went away to college — College of William and Mary — a few hours away from home. At her university, all of the residence halls were co-ed, except the one she decided to live in — which was for females only.

Everything was going smoothly, but during the first week of her freshman year, Koestner was raped. It wasn’t by a stranger or even by an acquaintance, she was raped by a boy she was dating.

“He’s got his hand over my head, with only one of his hands able to hold my arms there, and he’s holding my wrists too hard, and he won’t stop,” Koestner said.

During her presentation, Koestner encouraged students to be part of the solution, rather than being bystanders. Through her own organization, Campus Outreach Services, Koestner has spoken at more than 5,000 schools and organizations. She said she still struggles to speak about her personal experiences, despite visiting a new school almost every day.

“It’s not fun, I think it’s always hard,” Koestner said. “It never gets simple, but you just try and think how you can potentially, hopefully make a difference.”

According to management information systems senior Richard Thomas, having people like Koestner speak to college students is crucial.

“I think it’s important because some students don’t necessarily know that no means no,” Thomas said.

Nelson Alvarenga, exercise physiology senior and resident assistant, was required to attend the presentation.

“I think students should be informed about sexual assault and date rape because you never know when something like that can happen to you or someone you know,” Alvarenga said. “You need to be safe and cautious at all times.”

Dean of Students Matthew Park said that the prevention of sexual violence is not just on one person.

“The prevention of sexual violence is not the responsibility of one individual, or one office, or one unit or division,” Park said. “It’s a collective effort, and it has to be a continual campaign and message that is reinforced over time.”