New sexual assault programs aims to educate students

From Sept. 16 to 23, peer education groups are working alongside the Butler University Police Department and Counseling and Consultation Services for the annual Sexual Assault Awareness Week.

Sarah Barnes Diaz, health education and outreach programs coordinator, believes that the repetition of the program every year is what keeps awareness strong.

“We offer the same type of program every year to expose students to an understanding that sexual assault does occur and that college students are at a greater risk,” Diaz said.

This year, the program is adding events that are specific to students involved in the Greek community.  On Sunday, Monday or Tuesday, students affiliated with Greek organizations will go to the Reilly Room to watch a video and hear speakers who want to encourage students, especially in the Greek community, to promote safety and responsibility.

Clairice Hauschildt, a sophomore Greek affiliate, believes that learning as a Greek community is beneficial to awareness.

“It’s important for all of us to learn together because we hang out together all of the time, and you need to be able to have trust and feel safe when you go out into the Greek community,” Hauschildt said.  “If you have trust with people, then you don’t have to be afraid.”

A similar program will be offered to Ross Hall residents on Tuesday, Residential College residents on Wednesday and Schwitzer Hall residents on Thursday.

Diaz said the planned programs are not just focused on preventing assault from an individual perspective, but also on how the campus can come together as a community and look out for its students.

“It’s really important to us at Butler that we’re exposing students to conversations and opportunities to talk about how to prevent sexual assault early on,” Diaz said.

Other student involvement in sexual assault education involves conversations through Greek Educators, Advocates and Resource representatives.

Students representing various Greek houses took classes last spring that focused on relationship abuse, sexual assault and alcohol abuse.  These students act as the first source of information for students who have issues and need someone to talk to.

Junior Brady Sage is a G.E.A.R. representative.  Part of her goal is helping students realize that they shouldn’t be ashamed if they need help.

“Some things that happen too often are actually sexual assault, and people don’t even realize it,” Sage said.  “It’s not just rape or the things you see in movies.  It could be the most minor of things.”

Another event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sept. 17 is a ceremony at the gazebo outside of Starbucks, which will take place to show support for and honor the strength of sexual assault victims.

For the ceremony, ribbons will be tied on the gazebo in two-minute increments. According to Diaz, this act reflects the statistics that a sexual assault occurs every two minutes in the U.S.

“It’s likely that most students know someone who’s had an experience that shouldn’t have happened to them,” Diaz said.  “This is an opportunity for them to come out and honor the strength that it takes to survive that type of situation.”

Diaz also said that a photo project entitled “Take A Stand” would be going on throughout the week.

Students, faculty and staff will have their photos taken with a whiteboard while finishing the message “I take a stand because…”

Diaz hopes the sharing of these photos will make a strong statement for students who are too shy when it comes to working toward discussing and ending sexual violence.

“If we stand up and say something, that then gives other people permission to do the same thing,” she said.  “I think we can have a really cool domino effect on people who aren’t afraid to take a stand, and that could eventually change behavior.”

The Health and Recreation Complex has also gained a new presence on Pinterest this year, on which they have a “Take A Stand” board.

The board has information about sexual assault prevention, facts about sexual assault and information about other national projects that are going on.  In this way, students can educate themselves on their own terms.

“If there’s knowledge about where you can go—God forbid that should ever happen—that will help students feel more comfortable,” Hauschildt said.

Diaz is certain that keeping an open relationship with students about sexual assault issues is key to prevention.

“The issue of sexual assault is something that we all need to care about,” Diaz said.  “We all need to take a stand against it and know that there is something that we all can do to help prevent it from happening.”

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