Students at the University of Georgia are bringing the 1is2Many campaign to their campus in response to several incidents of rape and sexual battery already reportedto UGA Campus Police this fall.
In the past two weeks, seven incidents of rape and sexual battery have been reported to University of Georgia Police Department, a problem one on-campus event attempted to raise awareness of Wednesday.
The Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention office of the UGA University Health Center worked to raise awareness of available resources for sexual assault victims in Athens-Clarke County by giving each an information table in Tate Student Center Plaza to educate students.
“I really thought [this event] was helpful in teaching people about sexual assault and how to prevent it,” said Rachel Witt, a senior psychology major from Atlanta. “It’s nice to get different perspectives from different organizations all in one, because it shows how much support there is for anyone who has been sexually assaulted or could be, and helping to prevent it too.”
Nearly 150 students participated in the event, an interactive activity titled “Have You RSVP’d?” in which they were given a realistic scenario that involved the bystander’s role in a sexual assault. Students could then speak with representatives at each table and practice bystander intervention strategies.
The resources available include UGA’s Equal Opportunity Office, the Office of the Dean of Students, the UGA Police Department, the LGBT Resource Center, Project Safe, The North Georgia Cottage, the Fontaine Center Student Advisory Board and RSVP’s peer educators.
“These are all places on campus that you can go get help either for yourself or for a friend,” said Holly Howren, a junior political science and sociology major from Austell and an RSVP peer educator. “The situations that people are drawing are situations that could actually happen on campus.”
The event was also meant to raise awareness of the “red zone,” the first weeks of fall semester when there is heightened risk of sexual assault.
Sgt. Virgil Stephens, an officer in the UGA Crime Prevention Department, said the increased incidents may be a result of victims choosing to report more than they have in the past.
“It may just be because you’ve got new students on campus who don’t know their way around yet,” Stephens said. “Maybe they’re starting to realize that you need to report these things, versus in the past. Maybe it’s also the education, and people are actually reporting more than in previous years.”
UGA Police offer a personal safety for women class, and Cpl. Kevin Thompson said they are pushing for every sorority on campus to attend this year. He said the class begins with a discussion of alcohol awareness and drug-facilitated rape, followed by a self-defense lesson.
“We’ll put an officer in a suit, and we’ll demonstrate defensive tactic moves,” Thompson said. “We’ll show them how to use mace, and then we’ll demonstrate those tactics on one of our officers.”
Clare Norins, assistant director of the EOO, said their office can help with theinvestigative aspectsof sexual assault once it has been reported.
“For the times when there actually is an incident, our office, if the victims wants us to, can conduct an investigation,” Norins said. “If we are able to find by the preponderance of the evidence that there was misconduct, then we would take disciplinary action against the responsible party.”
Josh Fletcher, senior coordinator for the LGBT Resource Center, said their office hopes to make students aware that these dangers exist for every member of the student body.
“We are here just trying to represent that sexual assault and domestic violence happens to all types of communities, not just between straight couples,” Fletcher said. “We’re just trying to gain awareness and also offer a support structure for students on this campus.”
Fletcher said the role of the bystander can be crucial in a situation involving sexual assault.
“You can’t report for someone, obviously, but if you do think it’s an appropriate time to talk to them, there are places here on campus that can help with sexual prevention, where these things can be reported, and we do encourage people to,” Fletcher said. “It’s also just being a friend, stepping forward and asking, ‘What do you need right now?’ and those types of questions, and not assuming that you know the answers to them.”