National speaker Katie Koestner, director of the Take Back the Night Foundation, had some straight talk about digital citizenship, bystander intervention and her own inspiring story, Thursday at Barton Community College.
Koestner appeared on the cover of “Time” magazine at age 18 when she spoke out about her college rape — a story she shared during her evening presentation.
Her free programs, hosted by Barton’s Sexual Misconduct & Assault Resources Team (SMART), drew hundreds of students from the campus as well as interested community members.
At the start of Koestner’s presentations, Stephanie Joiner from Barton SMART advised audience members that advocates from the Family Crisis Center were on hand if they needed to talk to someone.
“To have this kind of turnout is wonderful,” Joiner said. “I think it speaks highly of our community.” Joiner noted that Ellinwood High School and Central Plains High School in Claflin sent several students to the program. “To me that speaks volumes on their concerns and commitment to these issues.”
In her program Digital Citizenship, Koestner talked about privacy on the internet and why it’s a bad idea to take or share sexy photos on a cellphone — even if they’re supposedly for one special person who “promises” never to share them with anyone. She had real-life examples of women whose photos went viral — resulting in consequences such as humiliation and even loss of a scholarship.
And the photographers and distributors risk facing child pornography charges if the subjects of their photos are under 18 years old.
“You have a digital footprint,” she said. “This generation has essentially written it’s own book — open to whoever wants to know.” What we do online or on a cell phone is “traceable, trackable and retrievable.”
To anyone who would request sexual photos she would respond, “If you really respected me, you wouldn’t have asked.”
Anticipate what could happen, even accidentally, knowing that things posted digitally today may be seen by future employers or your own children. Those who want doors to open are discrete about their postings. “What could it cost you? You may never know.”
No free apps
“Your information is valuable,” Koestner said. All of those free apps come with a price, as personal information is collected and sold. “Real privacy on social media just doesn’t exist if you’re not paying for the service.” Websites such as ReputationDefender charge $3,000 to $25,000 a year to clean up “bad” information as much as possible and to replace it with positive information. However, there is no such thing as a total “delete” of online content, she said. “The only solution to pollution is dilution.”
She advised teens to think about the social media they’ve been on since middle school and pick a few favorites to keep. For the others, add some positive posts and let them set for a few months, then cancel and delete.
Koestner was also there to talk about sexual assault, including her own story. She was the subject of an HBO movie and has lectured around the world on sexual assault, relationships, and technology issues. Her Capitol Hill testimony helped pave the way for passage of federal student safety legislation.
She urged the audience members to become advocates for respect in the community.
“Be courageous and speak up for what you are passionate about and what’s important to you,” she said. She asked them to imagine attending a party where a male is flirting with a drunk juvenile female. It a case such as that, she hopes bystanders will speak out.
“When I was 18 I felt what it was like to be powerless,” she said. There were no bystanders when she was raped by her boyfriend he freshman year in college. Instead, there were people who wanted her to keep silent. All she had left to stand on was her own resolve.
Her parents turned their backs on her, and her friends wanted her to make up with her attacker. So did the dean of students, because they made “such a cut couple.” But she realized if she did nothing, someone else was going to get hurt eventually.
“Think about how confident you are about speaking when silence is the easy way out,” she said. “You risk nothing when you’re silent — and I’m going to challenge you to do better than that.”