Tag: sexual assault

Take Back the Night 2016

Isabella Bejar, Julia Bernstein, Anahita Pardiwalla

Sometimes it’s easier to stay quiet. It’s easier to believe that what happened doesn’t matter. But life isn’t easy. To rip your heart open and put your hurt on display for millions to see is undeniably hard, but it is also what makes you strong.

Celebrities have come together to combat sexual assault with “It’s On Us,” a campaign to help survivors and end sexual assault. Their mission is to recognize and identify sexual assault situations while creating “an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.”

The campaign comes from the White House where Vice President Joe Biden accompanied Lady Gaga to speak about the message at The 2016 Academy Awards.

The University of Texas at Austin is taking a similar approach to combat this issue. Voices Against Violence, a branch of UT’s Counseling and Mental Health Center hosted “Take Back the Night,” an event that illuminates the movement to end sexual assault and offers a safe space for survivors to speak about their experiences.

Erin Burrows, the Prevention and Outreach Specialist for VAV, said she’s seen many diverse communities come together to talk about this issue.

“It is a beautiful portrait of what it means to be a Longhorn a part of this community,” Burrows said.

Paintings and Illustrations from Take Back the Night 2016

 

Over 40 student organizations are co-sponsoring this event including Texas Athletics, who joined the movement to end sexual assault with a video of their own stating, “Longhorns stick together.”

Students came together beneath the tower to offer support for their peers while learning about campus and city wide services offered to survivors.

Junior Lizeth Urdiales believed a big part is helping students overcome the situation.

“[We’re here] celebrating the diversity of the individuals that we really are,” she said.

Voices Against Violence Survivor's Emergency Fund

Sexual Assault Cases High But Remain Underreported

By: Julianne Staine, Hymi Ashenafi, Jessica Barrera and Stacie Richard

photo by Stacie Richard

photo by Stacie Richard

Every 21 hours, someone is raped at an American college campus.

Various organizations provided by the University of Texas at Austin seek to support victims, educate the public and provide a safer campus by raising awareness.

According to the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, over 80 percent of victims in Texas did not report the incident to law enforcement.

Officer William R. Pieper of the UTPD Crime Prevention Unit said several theories come
into play as to why sexual assault cases are underreported.

“One theory that I put a great deal of weight in is that many victims fear they will be re-victimized by the process,” Pieper said. “This re-victimization rests in the knowledge that they not only will need to re-live the event through the investigative process and the criminal trial, but they also fear blaming questions will be asked of them.”

According to Pieper, blaming questions can consist of asking the victim what she was
wearing or how much alcohol she consumed.

“As a society, we all need to recognize that assaultive behavior is not tolerable under any circumstance, and the victim in not at fault or culpable for the assault,” Pieper said.

Rape Aggression Defense, a free course offered to female students, faculty and staff by UTPD, is designed to teach self-defense techniques against attackers.

“The UTPD Crime Prevention Unit also works diligently to review construction programs to help design a safer campus,” Pieper said. “During these reviews, we look at lighting, landscaping, callbox placements and for areas that may serve as a funnel or trap. We then offer recommendations to help create a safer environment.”

Organizations, such as Voices Against Violence (VAV), offer individual meetings with
victims to provide information about their rights and options. Topics of these meetings may include medical concerns or reporting options to law enforcement.

The Power House located in the Student Services Building at The University of Texas at Austin is a resource that provides counseling to the Suicide Prevention and Voices Against Violence Outreach groups. photo by Stacie Richard

The Power House located in the Student Services Building at The University of Texas at Austin is a resource that provides counseling to the Suicide Prevention and Voices Against Violence Outreach groups.
photo by Stacie Richard

VAV also provides victims with financial resources through the organization’s emergency fund, which was started in 2001 with the goal of increasing victims’ safety and coping.

Other initiatives in Austin, such as the Victim Services Division of the Austin Police
Department, aim to respond to victims’ psychological and emotional needs through counseling, criminal justice support and education.

According to the 2013 Austin Police Department crime and traffic report, there were 217 reported victims of rape in Austin. In the majority of the incidents, the victim new the suspect as a family member, a partner or ex-partner, a person from a brief encounter or as a non-stranger.

UTPD’s Officer Pieper said that in order for students to stay safe on campus, they should pay attention to the people around them.

“Walk with purpose, having your head up and your eyes open,” Pieper said. “Make eye
contact with other people, and nod so they know you’ve seen them. And know that most
assaults happen between people who know each other and in areas where you may have
felt safe.”