Rutgers students take stance against violence during Sexual Assault Awareness Month
Every April, advocates rally on a national scale in support of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Coordinated by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, the movement is an effort to promote awareness, ensure safer campuses and prevent sexual assault.
In January 2014, President Barack Obama pushed for legislation that would improve procedures following sexual assault scenarios on U.S. college campuses, according to Rutgers Today. Rutgers was the first school chosen to pioneer the climate survey project.
The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) submitted a 16-page document outlining their recommendations to the White House Task Force, according to their website.
Ninety percent of sexual assaults are being committed by 3 percent of college males, indicating a pattern of repeat offenders making the same conscious decisions, according to RAINN.
The University is bringing the issue of sexual assault to light through various programming events, including the "iSPEAK" survey, focus groups and town hall meetings, said Ruth Anne Koenick, director of the Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance (VPVA).
Sexual violence is an umbrella term that includes sexual assault as well as other behaviors such as inappropriate touching and language, Koenick said.
VPVA is the primary resource for University students who have been the victim of a crime, Koenick said. The services are free of charge and range from extensive information that can be found on their website to call support around the clock.
All counseling services are strictly confidential and open to all students, she said. VPVA is one of three on-campus services that provide such support, along with health services and Counseling, ADAP and Psychiatric Services (CAPS).
A study conducted by the National Center for Victims of Crime, along with the Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, found that about one-third of all sexual assault survivors develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The effects of such violence have far reaching and devastating consequences that can impact the mental health of the victimized party involved, according to RAINN. This is why all students should be made aware of the support services available.
“I think we could always talk more about (sexual violence),” Koenick said. “One of the issues that I always have with an awareness month is that sexual assaults happen all the time and not just something that happens in April ... we need to talk about them all (throughout the year).”
Between 75 and 80 percent of victims personally know their perpetrator, according to a previous article in The Daily Targum.
“It really is a crime of not being strangers, and that changes how other people view it,” Koenick said. “If we believe that (stranger rapes are) the only kind of sexual violence that happen, then when somebody is raped by someone they know ... we tend to question that person.”
According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five women and one in 59 men are the victims of sexual assault.
Most cases occur before the victim is 25-years-old, making it imperative that colleges advocate for sexual assault prevention, according to the CDC.
On the evening of April 15, members of the University’s greek community took part in a march honoring those who have survived sexual assault, according to a previous article in The Daily Targum.
The rally was held to promote sexual violence prevention and dispel the idea that the greek community promotes sexual violence, according to the article.
Amreen Qaiyum, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said her residence hall offers events that encourage residents to participate in violence prevention.
Organizers make the events sound fun so students are motivated to attend and learn more about sexual assault and prevention, Qaiyum said.
On April 22, the Women Organizing Against Harassment (WOAH) is taking a stand and speaking out against “sexual and gendered violence” in the community, according to their Facebook page.
Take Back the Night 2015, scheduled to place on Douglass campus, is part of a broader national effort, according to the Take Back the Night national website.
Universities can do a lot more when it comes to sexual assault awareness, said Ashley Garcia, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student. More events and more flyers can be used to help better inform the students.
“I think it’s a very necessary month,” she said. “We talk about (sexual assault) a lot, but only when bad things happen as opposed to bringing it to the attention of students everyday.”