By Rachel Royster | News Editor
As April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), Baylor will be hosting events each week to give insight, educate students and empower survivors.
Throughout the month, Baylor will have an array of opportunities for students to get involved in, ranging from speakers like Olympian Maggie Nichols and Brittany Piper to a day for students to wear teal in support.
Tracy Tevis, Title IX education and prevention specialist, said the varying events reflect the variety of needs students have.
“There are a lot of events, and every student is different,” Tevis said. “So what might be great for one student — a conversation that they need to hear — may not be the same. So I can’t necessarily say this is the one event that all of our students need to go to, because all of our students have different needs.”
Tevis said one of the event’s featured speakers experienced sexual assault at two varying times in her life — one at age 20 and one while in her professional life.
“I think it’s important for our students to know that this doesn’t just happen in the context of college life,” Tevis said. “This can happen if you’re a child; it can also happen after you graduate and when you’re in your career.”
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) found that nationwide, 81% of women and 43% of men reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment and/or assault in their lifetime. Of those who experience sexual assault or harassment, the NSVRC found that 40% of rapes and sexual assaults were reported to police in 2017, but only about 25% were reported to police in 2018.
Dr. Laura Johnson, associate vice president for equity and Title IX, said her office combats those numbers by making sure students who do come forward are “in the driver’s seat” with any involvement with the report.
“We also have opportunities for anonymous reporting,” Johnson said. “In fact, we can even communicate back and forth anonymously without that person having to share their identity, so they can still have a conversation with us.”
Johnson said if students aren’t sure whether or not to report a situation, they should “err on the side of caution,” and the office will redirect students if need be.
“Our office is not here to judge; that is not the sole purpose of our office,” Tevis said. “We want to offer assistance and support, so no matter the denomination of the student, if they believe, if they do not believe, no matter their gender, their sexual orientation, any of those things, students know that they can come to our office, and they will get the help and the assistance that they need regarding harassment, discrimination and/or sexual misconduct.”
In order to destigmatize reporting sexual assault, Johnson said there have been many activist movements in recent years, much like those happening on Baylor’s campus this month.
Tevis said on campus, there is an effort to create a community where all members feel safe, valued and respected.
“It is important as a community that we observe this month, because through preventative activities, we can actually help stop sexual assault before it happens,” Tevis said. “So through the equity office’s activities, discussions and all the events that we have this month — and through all of the different months that we have here on campus — we can offer our community an understanding and build a better community.”
Visit Baylor’s website to find a full list of events during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.