UNCW student spearheads campaign to get awareness posters in bar restrooms


Courtesy of the Change.org campaign page

The Change.org campaign is seeking to display awareness-based posters in local bars.

Casey McAnarney, Editor-in-Chief

UNC Wilmington student Elise Yost started a Change.org campaign after a friend of hers detailed frequent harassment she had experienced in the local bar scene.

The campaign, titled “Wilmington NC: Awareness Campaign to Stop Unwanted Groping in Bars (Wilmington, NC),” was started Feb. 5 in the hopes of incorporating flyers in bar restrooms to raise awareness of sexual assault.

“A friend of mine recently informed me that every single time she goes out, at least one guy would slap or grab her butt (without consent),” the description of Yost’s campaign read. “Sadly, I know many others that have dealt with the same or similar experiences while going out in Wilmington.”

Yost said that “getting groped” should not be an aspect of “going out.” By signing the petition, locals are asking bars in Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach to display these posters. The petition currently has 365 out of 500 possible signatures.

Even though getting slapped on the rear is not as severe as some other forms of sexual assault, Yost acknowledged, “the act itself still comes with the belief that you have a right to use someone else’s body for your own sexual gratification or amusement.” Yost said that she wanted to challenge this idea.

Yost said that the overall response so far has been positive. She noted that it was great to have so many people from all different backgrounds supporting this campaign.

“I strongly believe that the issue of sexual assault shouldn’t be a partisan matter,” Yost said.

One individual who shared the campaign on her Facebook page, UNCW alumni Becki Fernandez, said, “I’ve literally stopped going out as much because I was sick of getting sexually harassed and assaulted every time I go out. We have a lot of work to do to address the culture of sexual harassment, and this is a great start.”

Yost has not yet reached out to local bars. She wanted to wait and allow people to sign the petition before venturing to the local bars in the area. This way, when she goes to speak to bar managers, she can show them how much support is behind this campaign.

“While the posters are not a perfect solution to end sexual assault, they are a way to inform people that unwanted sexual touching is never okay, not even in the bar scene,” Yost said. “Engaging in any sort of sexual contact with someone, against their will, for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification, is a class A1 misdemeanor under North Carolina law.”

Sexual assault laws and crime classifications in North Carolina are identical to that of rape charges, however, there are minor differences. For either crime, a sentence can range from 44 months to life in prison. The specific definition of this crime, according to North Carolina General Statute § 14-27.21, is, “A person commits a sexual offense by engaging in a sexual act with another person by force and against the will of the other person; or with another person who lacks capacity, either mentally or physically, and the defendant knows or reasonably should know.”

If a member of the UNCW community endured this crime, the university has resources for either reporting the crime or seeking assistance in coping methods. The Collaboration for Assault Response and Education center [CARE]and the Office Title IX and Clery Compliance are both located in DePaolo Hall. The Seahawk also reported on earlier this year on an application the university contemplated using that allows victims of these crimes to “document their trauma” without seeking out police or the university initially.