Concordia partnered with the It’s On Us campaign to organize a discussion about sexual assault awareness. Over 100 students gathered in the Centrum on Monday, Feb. 9, at 7 p.m. to participate.
According to itsonus.org, the It’s On Us campaign’s mission is “to recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault; to identify situations in which sexual assault may occur; to intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given; to create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.”
Nancy Boyle, an advocate from the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center spoke for about a half an hour before the question portion began. She talked about how shame is associated with sexual assault, which causes people to avoid any publicity. Moreover, victims of sexual assault feel too ashamed to get the help they need from the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center.
Boyle was chosen by Concordia’s Student Working Group, an 11-member team led by J. Sue Oatey, Vice President and Dean of Student Affairs, and Laura Zieher, Brown Hall Director. Boyle spoke during the fall RA training, and Student Working Group member Sean Payette asked her to speak once more.
“We thought she was extremely effective, and so I knew that I wanted her to come back and talk to a different audience,” Payette said.
Boyle spoke to this audience about her experience at the Rape and Abuse Center in Fargo. She said the center deals predominantly with women. However, in the past year the center has seen about 3,000 cases; 500 of these have been children aged four or older, and 16 percent have been males. In addition, 85 percent of those sexually assaulted know the person who assaulted them – they are often friends, family or a partner.
“We open our doors to anybody,” Boyle said. “We need to get it out of our minds that it is a certain type of guy or girl. Domestic violence and sexual assault is an epidemic.”
She also said victims are often blamed for the assault committed against them based on what they were wearing or how mentally impaired they were.
“I think the most important point is to look at the other side of the issue,” Payette said. “So often, victims of sexual assault are allegedly ‘asking for it’ based off of what they’re wearing, or are taken advantage of because they are intoxicated or otherwise unable to function at their full capacity. Instead of blaming the victim, we should be putting blame on those who perpetrate these acts.”
When Boyle concluded her section of the event, students were able to ask questions either out loud or write them on a notecard for anonymity because of the nature of the subject.
To help answer questions, Boyle requested help from Megan Williamson, head nurse of the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner unit at Sanford. Justin Vogel and Brad Penas of the Moorhead Police Department also shared their experience and knowledge on the subject.
Audience members asked a variety of questions; some wanted to know how to ask for consent in a comfortable way and others had questions about the ER experience and lawsuits following a sexual assault.
Williamson, Vogel and Penas spoke about the processes that happen in their line of work – every situation and investigation is different. They stressed the idea of prompt reports because after 72 hours past the assault, they are no longer permitted to collect evidence.
Payette said he felt the students really appreciated all those who spoke and were wholly engaged in the conversation.
“They added an extremely important dynamic to the talk last night,” Payette said. “All four of them had unique and important perspectives on the issue, and I think everyone in attendance was pleased with how they handled the topics and the questions.”
Boyle said we should be able to talk about sex with partners the way we talk about anything else. Partners should be able to talk about sex they way they talk about “going to Taco John’s or Taco Bell.”
“Society allows us to keep our lips sealed when it comes to sex,” Boyle said. “You’re on a campus that is taking a stand. You need to appreciate that.”
Concordia provides students with a very clear definition of sexual assault. This definition can be found on Concordia’s website.
Anna Erickson is a Multimedia Journalism major and an Art and Writing minor. She is from Alexandria, Minnesota and is a part of Concordia’s class of 2017. She is also a lifeguard, swimming lessons teacher and member of CEC. She loves photography, writing, and being on the lake.