Campus group works to end “pervasive” culture of sexual assault

Campus+group+works+to+end+pervasive+culture+of+sexual+assault

This weekend, Not On My Campus will be hosting a walk to grab the attention of the administration and the student body. Pictured are Helmi Henkin and Madeline Anscombe.

Camille Studebaker

Caroline Builta, a junior majoring in telecommunication and film and sexual assault victim, said that there are two eye witnesses of Brock Turner sexually assaulting a woman, and he was only sentenced to six months in jail, his case is the “very epitome” of why women do not report sexual violence.

According to RAINN.com, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, “Only 20 percent of female student victims, age 18-24, report to 
law enforcement.”

Builta thinks Brock Turner’s case will not alter sexual assault on 
campuses nationwide.

“Brock Turner is just one example of the thousands out there, and just this summer a CU Boulder rapist received just two years of work release and 20 years of probation for the same crime,” she said. “This problem isn’t unique to Brock; it’s just a part of our culture.”

While sexual assault has always been prevalent on campuses nationwide, this case highlighted the issue, renewing the fear students have of being sexually assaulted.

RAINN.com reports that more than 50 percent of college sexual assaults occur in either August, September, October or November.

Builta said the administration at the University handles sexual assault really well. She said the University’s Title IX coordinator, Beth Howard, is a very understanding woman who never pressured her to give more information than she felt comfortable sharing and always made sure that she knew what options were available to her.

Students whom have been sexually assaulted at the University can go to UAPD, the Office of Student Care and Well Being, the Title IX coordinator or the Women and Gender Resource Center for help.

Although Builta believes the University’s Sexual Misconduct Policy is supportive, Builta stated that the University could drastically improve its counseling on campus.

“I think that the University needs to have counseling resources better equipped to handle sexual assault,” she said. “The counseling center here just isn’t as capable of handling traumatic issues like this as they ought to be, given how common it is on our campus.”

Builta thinks having counselors who specialize in sexual assault is entirely necessary on college campuses.

“I also think that making counseling services completely free and getting rid of the limit on the number of sessions that one can have is imperative to helping students cope with traumatic experiences,” she said. “Long-term therapy is one of most productive ways that I’ve dealt with my own assault, and I think that that isn’t an available resource to students through the University is something that needs to be changed immediately.”

In addition to official UA resources, clubs on campus also play a role in encouraging students to fight against sexual violence on campus.

Not on My Campus, a year-old student organization, is working to stop the silence associated with sexual assault, create a safer campus for students and ultimately end sexual violence by advocating for better victim resources.

Erin Brown, a junior majoring in public relations and communications studies and member of Not On My Campus, said the Women and Gender Resource Center and Title IX office are incredibly understaffed.

“I know of several people whose appointments were repeatedly cancelled or plainly turned away at the Women and Gender Resource Center,” she said.

Zoe Winston, Peer Education Program Coordinator at the University, disagrees with Brown’s statement.

“The Women and Gender Resource Center serves students, and so we absolutely serve any student who comes and needs services,” she said.

Winston did not feel that she was in a position to comment on whether the office is understaffed, but she said the Women and Gender Resource Center is currently in the process of hiring an additional therapist.

The Women and Gender Resource Center emphasized that it makes itself available to clients. Director Elle Shaaban-Magana said the center has dedicated hours Monday through Friday on each of the direct client staff members’ for the acceptance of walk-in clients in the midst of immediate crisis. She said the center also provides ongoing counseling and advocacy to their current clients, as well as a 24/7 on-call advocate.

Brown said the Student Health Center not having rape kits or staff specifically trained to handle sexual assault is a major issue. For this reason, students can reach out to NOMC where they can be put into contact with the Director of Survivor Support Shelby Anderson.

“Even though DCH does offer rape kits, I highly recommend going to the Birmingham Crisis Center if you are able,” she said. “The Crisis Center offers rape kits, counseling and can even offer legal assistance, and you will never receive a bill.”

With all of the perceived issues, NOMC continually seeks to find outlets for discussion and substantive change.

“Not on My Campus has been working to create an open dialogue at Alabama,” Brown said. “We’ve participated in several forums as well as collaborated with It’s On Us. The first step to ending sexual assault is acknowledging how pervasive it is.”

The group’s drive to make a difference stems from its core pledge.

“We are connected by our passion for Alabama and our desire to make a difference within our campus community and throughout the world,” the pledge reads. “We have experienced either directly or indirectly, the devastating effects of sexual assault on our campus and realize it is our responsibility to step up and take responsibility for our student culture. It is time to take responsibility for our student culture. We need to end the silence around sexual assault and engage fellow students in conversations about our collective and personal responsibility to prevent sexual assault. Sexual assault is any sexual activity without consent. Alabama gets consent.”

NOMC says that understanding what “consent” means is crucial to ending the sexual assault on college campuses. The University’s Title IX defines consent as “a clear willingness to participate in the sexual act (e.g., clear communication through words or actions).” It continues to read that, “Consent to a sexual act is not freely given if the individual is not able to give proper consent, or if consent is obtained by force, threats, deception or coercion.”

If students need someone confidential to speak to, they can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE.