Groups raise sexual assault awareness

Various organizations are teaming up this week to raise awareness of this issue on campus, bringing a stigmatized topic into the limelight through a campaign titled “I Always Get Consent.”

Statistically, one in every six women will be sexually assaulted or raped in her lifetime, including hundreds of ASU students.

Various organizations are teaming up this week to raise awareness of this issue on campus, bringing a stigmatized topic into the limelight through a campaign titled “I Always Get Consent.”

The campaign aims to educate students about what consent really means and encourage them to make a pledge to always get consent.

Event coordinator Gabby Kissinger, a kinesiology and psychology sophomore, said the idea for the event started when a friend of hers was sexually assaulted.

“As soon as my friend told us, it was incredibly disheartening to see how many people were affected by it,” Kissinger said. “We want to educate students about what consent is and how to prevent sexual assault.”

Residence Hall Association and Undergraduate Student Government representative Zach Yentzer said the campaign goes beyond awareness.

“We need to stand up against this, but also present solutions to make our campus and students a lot safer,” he said.

Several off-campus and student organizations, as well as ASU Health and Wellness and Counseling and Consultation, set up tables on Hayden Lawn at the Tempe campus Wednesday to inform students about the issue and promote the main event of the week, which will be held Thursday at 5 p.m. in the Memorial Union.

The event will include “consent training,” in which students will learn about consent and ways to avoid and deal with sexually compromising situations.

Free dinner will be served, followed by a panel discussion about consent, high-risk situations and the importance of supporting victims and encouraging them to come forward.

“It’s important for victims of sexual assault to know there are people in the community dedicated to preventing it,” business communication freshman Julia Stevens said. “There’s a certain stigma to being a rape victim, but if they know there are people in the community dedicated to supporting them, victims will be more willing to come forward and make it the issue it should be.”

Tempe Police spokesman Sgt. Steve Carbajal said events like this have the potential to make a difference.

Following high numbers of reported sexual assaults in Tempe in 2009, Tempe Police hosted and partnered in several awareness events.

“We saw a pretty significant decrease in sexual assault,” he said.

Tempe Police saw 43 reported sexual assaults in 2010, down from 64 in 2009.

Carbajal recommended that students avoid negative situations by being aware of their surroundings, telling friends where they are going and not letting peer pressure affect their decisions.

Carbajal also encouraged students to come forward if they are victimized, including in the case of date rape.

“Date rape is sexual assault,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to come forward and report it.”

According to event coordinators, three to five incidents are reported on campus annually, and hundreds more likely go unreported.

Victims often opt not to come forward because of the negative stigma of being a victim and fear of retribution or not being believed.

Not only women are affected by sexual assault on campus.

According to data released by the American College Health Association last spring, approximately 4 percent of college males reported being sexually assaulted in the last year while another 0.6 percent reported being raped in the past year.

Wednesday’s event included a ledger filled with names of students directly affected by rape or sexual assault, either as a personal victim or as a close friend of a victim.

In four hours, more than 160 students signed.

Business communications freshman Elyssa Tapetillo stopped by the event Wednesday afternoon and said the long list of names in the ledger really had an impact on her.

“This event is awesome,” she said. “I didn’t know how many people experience this.”

Tapetillo also said sexual assault awareness is very important and that she plans to attend the Thursday event.

The ledger will also be available at the panel discussion.

Stevens, who is also a member of the Arizona Sexual Assault Network and will be on the panel, said she is looking forward to the discussion.

“It’s important to be proactive and it’s my personal mission to prevent sexual assault as much as possible,” she said. “It’s a quiet issue, but it affects a lot of people.”

Originally publisehd on March 2, 2011 by  |  The State Press

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