Campus seeks to raise awareness of sex assault

This week is Sexual Assault Awareness Week on the Butler University campus, and it seems like it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.

The awareness week is held at the beginning of every school year.

Sarah Barnes-Diaz, health education and outreach programs coordinator, said that people are thinking that this awareness week is very timely because of the alleged sexual assault Sept. 11, but in reality, it is always a timely awareness week on campus.

There are different focuses throughout the week to help inform students that sexual assault is an issue and to educate them about it.

Barnes-Diaz explained that they are raising awareness about the problem, educating students and letting them know that everyone can do something to help prevent sexual assaults.

Another focus involves simply defining the term “sexual assault” and encouraging students to step up if they see something suspicious.

“We bring up the role of the bystander,” said Barnes-Diaz. “There is no such thing as an innocent bystander when it comes to sexual assaults.”

There are activities going on all week, including “10 Moves Every Person Should Know” at the Health and Recreation Complex.  This is an event from 6 to 7:30 p.m. tonight that will be teaching students 10 self-defense moves.

Recently, a timely warning was sent out to inform students of a sexual assault on campus.  Since the distribution of the warning, Barnes-Diaz and Andrew Ryan, assistant chief of police, said they feel like students are afraid to report any sexual assault incidents because they feel like it will be sent out to the entire campus.

“If there is an unknown suspect and that person might still be on-campus, only then is a timely warning sent out,” said Ryan. “Very few [timely warnings] are actually issued.”

He said that students shouldn’t be afraid to report anything.

Since the report of the recent alleged sexual assault on campus made local news, Barnes-Diaz said she is concerned that publicity will deter students from reporting any future incidents.

“There is a certain set of criteria that needs to be met involved in reporting and sending out a warning,” she said.

Barnes-Diaz also reminds students of the Victim Advocate Program, which is a free and confidential 24-hour hotline for students to call if they need counseling or advice on what they should do if they have been sexually assaulted.

This program is a useful tool to help facilitate the reporting process, she said.

If students are afraid to report a sexual assault, Barnes-Diaz wants to remind students that nothing is done or said outside of what the student wants.

Ryan said that students can make a decision on how they want to go through the process, and the Butler University Police Department and Victim Advocate Program will help students if they need advice through the process.

“For a campus this size, we have a wealth of resources available, from the Victim Advocates Program to BUPD to the counseling center,” Barnes-Diaz said. “There are multiple students, faculty and staff that have also become committed [to helping students].”

Caitlin Jackson, president of Demia, stated via email that considering the recent events at a campus fraternity, it’s particularly important for the students to be aware of the support network available to survivors of sexual violence.

“It is my hope, following the recent public occurrence of sexual assault on Butler’s campus, that all fraternities on campus critically examine how they may be perpetuating a culture of violence against women and to work with Sarah Barnes and PAWS to ensure that their houses are safe places for people to be in the future,” Jackson said in an email.

Demia will have a PAWS table Thursday in Starbucks from 2 to 4 p.m., to advocate for safe, consensual sex and to promote the free HIV/STI testing at the Health Center office.

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