Wednesday, October 25, 2017

University Seeks to Raise Awareness of Sexual Violence and Support for Victims

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Students hunched over the sidewalk in front of the University of New Orleans Earl K. Long Library Monday, writing messages of support to victims of sexual violence. One such message, chalked in blue, said it succinctly: “We stand with you.”

Join Us!

What: Take Back the Night, a rally and vigil against sexual violence and abuse 

When: Wednesday , Oct. 25, 5:30 p.m.

Where: Outside Marquette Hall, Loyola University, 6363 St. Charles Ave., New Orleans, La.

The Chalk the Walk event was one in a series of activities organized by the Office of Counseling Services, Student Affairs, Student Housing and the Women’s Center this week that are designed to raise awareness and support for survivors of sexual violence.

On Wednesday, Oct. 25, UNO is partnering on Take Back the Night, a 5:30 p.m. rally and candlelight vigil at Loyola University that for the last 26 years has sought to heighten awareness of sexual violence and to empower survivors. Organizers intend the event to be a powerful call to end sexual and gender-based violence and abuse.

The University of New Orleans is also a drop-off location for a donations of items that adult victims of sexual abuse need immediately following a forensic examination at a hospital. Items needed include scrubs in all sizes, men’s and women’s underwear, sports bras, flip-flops, socks, Keurig cups and individually wrapped snacks. Items can be dropped off through Oct. 28 at Student Affairs (UC 248), The Women’s Center (LIB 201), Pontchartrain Hall North front desk, and the office at Privateer Place.

While the nation’s headlines are focused on issues of sexual assault and harassment in Hollywood and elsewhere, leaders in the national higher education community have long grappled with the topic. Statistics indicate that college age women are three times as likely as all women to be victimized.

We reached out to five UNO staff and faculty members about the University’s involvement in raising sexual violence awareness and prevention.

The following responses come from Nina Stewart, staff counselor and coordinator of outreach; Amy King, director of student accountability, and disability services; Natalie Temple, assistant director for fraternity and sorority life;  Lisa Verner, director of the UNO Women’s Center; and Jessica Linehan and Emily Weidow, area coordinators for Student Housing.

Q: Why does the University community feel it is important to participate in raising awareness about issues related to sexual violence and sexual violence victimization?

A: Sexual violence on college campuses is not only pervasive, but the effects have lasting impacts on entire communities. If we want to change the culture, awareness is key to intervention and prevention.  The entire UNO community must have a stake in learning about sexual violence, the impacts, ways to respond to survivors, and available resources. This is the first step. Equally as important, we must ensure that students have these same opportunities to become educated and aware of their options, resources, etc.

Q: What do you want to say to people who have been victimized?

A: It’s not your fault. You are not alone. We hear you. We support you in your decisions. There are people on campus who want to help you through your process and explain your options.

Q: What do you want to say to people who want to help those around them who have been victimized?

A: Listen to them and believe them.  Having others who believe them and support them can help more than you would imagine. Educate yourself about the issue of sexual violence and how to safely and tactfully intervene when you see something that looks off. There are great resources in your community for people who want to help others, including LoveisRespect.org.

Q:  How do you see this helping?

A: Survivors often encounter resistance and skepticism concerning their stories, which discourages them from seeking the help they may need.  Our hope is that with these programs and campus-wide efforts, students feel supported and the campus becomes one that is united to create change.

Q:  What do you hope people who attend these events leave with?

A: Resources, awareness, and education. The understanding that your university is here and that as a community, we can work to create a supportive environment.

Find additional resources and information online:

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) – Statistics on Campus Sexual Assault

University of New Orleans Crime Victim Resources

University of New Orleans Sexual Violence Response Guidelines