Letter: Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Letter: Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April 02
00:04 2015

Over the past two years, there has been a lot of attention on sexual assault and college campuses.  We know sexual assault is the most underreported crime; that 1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted while in college, and 1 in 9 men. On the national level, we have heard of many college campuses who have been under scrutiny for not investigating sexual assaults, failing to report or overall take care of the survivors who were brave enough to report sexual assaults. We have seen many times the survivor re-victimized due to lack of education to the public on how to help those who report these crimes.

Over the past 18 months, UNT has done a number of different things to provide programming and education on sexual assault and intimate partner violence. A year ago, we began a university-wide committee to lead the way to organize more training, programming and outreach.  I am hoping you are beginning to see our efforts in teal ribbons, campaign signs, Take Back the Night, consent videos and consent campaigns, just to name a few.

Twenty years ago when I began my career in higher education, I dreamt of being a Dean of Students, and when I fell in love with UNT as a graduate student in 1995, I knew this was the place I wanted to call home. In my years here I have heard a number of stories from students who face crisis situations, and in the Dean of Students office, we hear a number of them each day.  In the past 18 months we have added the advocate role to DOS and will be hiring a full-time Survivor Advocate by mid-April.  Many times, I have been the one who has assisted students who have been survivors of sexual assault.

I have sat across the table from many survivors of sexual assault: men and women; gay, lesbian, straight and transgender; black, white, Hispanic and Asian; rich, poor and middle class. I have seen survivors who were so scared to take any step to disclose what occurred in fear of retaliation, or who blamed her/himself due to drinking, short skirts or flirting behavior. I have seen students so raw and deeply hurt they did not know what the next step was in their day, let alone graduating from UNT. I have heard stories ranging  from lifelong sexual abuse as a child to students who were sexually assaulted in high school or college. No matter when the assaults occurred, the survivors all need to know they have someone in their corner, someone ready to assist them and connect them to those who can help.

We all know someone whose life has been altered because of sexual assault. Do we know how to help them or what to say?  Do you know all they want is someone to believe them? Do you know UNT and Denton County Friends of the Family have partnered to offer free training to UNT community members to help you know how to assist your friends?

The Dean of Students office at the University of North Texas is here to help any person who has been a victim of sexual assault or intimate partner violence, no matter when it occurred.  You do have a voice and we can help with classes, counseling, medical assistance, reporting to police or under the Code of Student Conduct and we can get you connected to resources off-campus too.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. There are a number of programs and events going on this month to prevent sexual assault.  In particular, UNT is one of the 10 national Take Back the Night Foundation’s Points of Light.  We will be having Take Back the Night on April 30 and hope you can all attend to help us prevent sexual assault and raise awareness regarding bystander education, resources for survivors both on- and off-campus.

Please feel free to visit our website, http://deanofstudents.unt.edu/compliance/title-ix, and know that we are here to help.

2_moe_webMaureen McGuinness

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