This April, the University of Dallas will hold a series of events commemorating Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) with four events such as a talk covering the harmful effects of pornography, bystander intervention training and a self-defense workshop.
But what exactly is the benefit of dedicating a whole month to the issue of sexual assault?
“[SAAM] is the beginning of a conversation,” senior organizer Katie Revia said. “It’s [openly] acknowledging an issue we’d rather not talk about, [but] in a constructive way.”
Ultimately, the goal for this month is to increase education and prevention, a sentiment echoed by Director of Student Affairs and West Side Residence Coordinator Seth Oldham, who said in an email that SAAM is an attempt to change the narrative of a rape culture found across the nation, even at UD.
Revia said it would be a disservice to say that sexual assault is a non-issue.
Although numbers of reported incidents are extremely low or perhaps non-existent on some campuses, research shows that many sexual assaults go unreported, leading to ambiguity about the true extent of sexual assault on college campuses.
Part of the university’s intent this month is to tear away the veil of uncertainty regarding sexual assault.
Education is key, but this education must debunk rape myths, Revia said.
Oldham added another important tenet of education, which is having an open mind. But beyond that, the most important factor, according to Oldham, is that the cultural forces that create sexual assault be thoroughly assessed in order to eliminate the issue.
“I think there is such a thing [as a rape culture], and it starts with our society’s devaluing of sex and sexuality,” Oldham said.
“Whether you you see it secularly as a violation an individual’s sexual autonomy or from a more religious viewpoint as a violation of the holiness of the sexuality of another, sexual assault ultimately is a violent act that uses another sexually despite no freely given affirmation to do so,” Revia said.
According to figures provided by Oldham, a University of Texas survey found that 5% of undergraduate women reported rape, while 28 percent reported unwanted sexual touching.
Data from the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network states that 23.1 percent of undergraduate women experience some sort of sexual assault, compared to 5.4 percent of men.
Both Revia and Oldham believe the university’s policies are adequate, but Oldham in particular would like an increase in education regarding sexual assault, while Revia expressed a desire to see greater cooperation between the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) and survivors to remedy any imperfect policy.
As it stands in UD’s current student handbook, sexual assault is “any sexual act directed against another person, without the consent of the victim, including instances where the victim is incapable of giving consent,” including rape, fondling, incest and statutory rape.
Reporting methods include confidentiality in speaking with a licensed university counselor, a physician in the Health Clinic or a religious person in the Campus Ministry center. Students may also file complaints with the Title IX Coordinator or local law enforcement.
Reports can also be made informally to the OSA or Campus Safety Office.
A full schedule of events can be found on the university website.