By Elizabeth Wellinghoff | Contributor
Sexual violence doesn’t discriminate. It affects men and women; children, youth and adults. Regardless of age, income, race – anyone can be a bystander to these acts of violence or be personally impacted by stalking, harassment or assault.
Sometimes it may seem that sexual violence affects our community moreso than others, as if sexual assault is a Baylor-specific conversation. But this is an issue we’re navigating society-wide, not just in college communities. Across the country and the world, people are stepping forward to say #MeToo. They are acknowledging that sexual assault can impact every profession and every community. Our university and community are taking part in a critical, international conversation on sexual assault and harassment.
Never disregarding our past and hopeful about our future, we look to the generations of world changers here at Baylor. Students are raising awareness that people face sexual violence in all walks of life – at the office, in the classroom, on the street and in the locker room. There’s a growing recognition that on our campus, we have access to more resources than at any other time in history. If something happens to us or to a friend, we are surrounded by people who are ready to wrap us in support.
Alone we cannot sustain, but we are not alone. We’re in this together. If we all work together, a cultural transformation can happen. Across campus and across the city, people and organizations are uniting in support of survivors and preventing future acts of violence. It’s more than just the Title IX Office, and it must be.
During my short time at Baylor, I have met professors, staff, administration, coaches, advisers and students from all walks of life and departments who are eager to put an end to violence. Our Waco community is rich with resources like the Family Abuse Center, the Advocacy Center, Jesus Said Love and Unbound just to name a few.
So where do we go from here? Are we done? Have we done everything we can do? Absolutely not! Here are three ways to actively participate in addressing a global problem at the local level:
If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual harassment or assault, believe them, consider reporting the incident to law enforcement, Title IX or a confidential resource. If safety is a concern, immediately call 911. Law enforcement can help you pursue options like a restraining order, a criminal investigation and other legal remedies. Baylor’s Title IX Office is available to help with academic support if the harassment or assault is creating a discriminatory or hostile educational environment.
This month, experience the “What Were You Wearing, Waco?” exhibit. This national art installation, curated for our community, is on campus April 16-26. Several sets of clothing – from sundresses to jerseys to jeans and a t-shirt – are displayed alongside accounts from sexual assault survivors who were wearing similar clothes at the time of the incident. This is a thought-provoking exhibit meant to begin important conversations about sexual violence.
Are you interested in making a difference on our campus? Join the “It’s On Us” Student Advisory Council. Visit baylor.edu/titleix for more information and a calendar of upcoming meeting dates.
We are living in an unprecedented time: more than ever before, social justice is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Let us not sit idly by. Push back against the normalization of violence and abuse. Embrace your voice. Don’t do it alone; join us.
Elizabeth Wellinghoff is the training and prevention specialist at the Title IX Office.