‘Respect Rolls Here’: UA launches sexual assault and interpersonal violence task force

Ginger Morrow, Contributing Writer

The University of Alabama Division of Student Life launched a sexual assault and interpersonal violence task force to reinforce a healthy campus culture that ensures respect of others.  

The task force launched its first initiative, the #RespectRollsHere campaign, which aims to raise awareness about sexual assault resources both on and off campus.

Tut Wilson, the task force’s chair and executive director of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, said launching the task force in October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, was a priority. The task force has met once so far and plans to meet on at least a bimonthly basis going forward. 

Wilson said the task force is the brainchild of Vice President for Student Life Myron Pope. Members of the task force come from different sectors of campus.

“For me, it’s personal,” Wilson said. “I don’t claim to be the expert. I’m just an advocate.”

The task force will combine the efforts of the Student Government Association, the Women and Gender Resource Center, and the Counseling Center. 

SGA is hosting It’s On Us, an annual sexual assault prevention awareness week, starting Oct. 11.

The task force recommends Tuscaloosa SAFE Center and Turning Point as community resources for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

Organizations like Not On My Campus, Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault, the University’s four Greek councils and WGRC student ambassadors are a few of the student groups partnering with the task force.

“We have a unique perspective as students, but administration is the one who can actually implement change and enact programs to stop this,” said Colby Lewis, programming director of UA MARS. “I think it’s important for us to work together because it provides a more direct path to change.”

Wilson said the task force will measure its impact quantitatively through reports by the Title IX office and the Women and Gender Resource Center.

“We recognize that there is a stigma around actually reporting issues,” Wilson said. “An increase in reports may actually be a positive sign, as we’ll be able to discipline more appropriately.” 

There were 37 rape charges and 2 domestic violence charges reported in the most recent UA Campus Safety and Fire Security Report.

One of the main contributors to sexual assault on campus is alcohol abuse. Wilson said the task force hopes to address this through ongoing bystander intervention programming.

“Our Capstone Creed talks about respect, and that is the focus of our campaign,” she said. “It’s simple. We truly hope that it will translate beyond sexual assault into all aspects of campus life.” 

RAINN reports that 13% of all college students in the United States experience sexual assault or rape. Students are at a higher risk for being sexually assaulted during their first few months on campus. Over 50% of sexual assaults occur in the fall semester with transfer students being the most vulnerable.

Sexual assaults on college campuses have sparked protests in seven states, including Alabama

“UA has done several benchmarking studies, and we are actually ahead of the curve compared to many peers,” Wilson said. “Not to say our campus is perfect, but I am proud of the resources our campus partners have already put in place.”

Questions? Email the News desk at newsdesk@cw.ua.edu.