By Riley Holcraft
The Office of Student Engagement and Support at Volunteer State Community College hosted an informational discussion on sexual assault April 5.
This event was hosted by Tiffany Zwart, coordinator of student support.
To open the discussion, Zwart stated, “We can try to ignore sexual assault and act like it doesn’t exist or we can talk about it to prevent it.”
Sharon Travis, a prevention specialist at the Sexual Assault Center (SAC) in Nashville, was the guest speaker for the event. Travis has worked with SAC to end sexual violence through counseling, education, and advocacy for over 20 years. During Travis’s discussion, she provided statistics, prevention techniques and real life instances to better inform participants about the dangers of sexual assault.
Travis explained that sexual assault is an issue rooted in childhood.
“What we recognize about this issue is it affects children in a disproportional way,” said Travis.
50% of clients at SAC are children, and 78% of all people in homes experiencing domestic violence become sex offenders, Travis shared in her presentation. Many times, sexual assault is a learned behavior.
“Rape is not sex,” stated Travis, “Rape is about power, control, domination, and manipulation.”
90% of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows, many of which go unreported. Travis explained that all people 18 and over are automatically considered a mandated reporter. As a mandated reporter, there is no option to not report cases of sexual assault.
Travis compared the effects of sexual assault to a broken leg. It creates a trauma that is not curable through self-medication, and rehabilitation is necessary. If one comes in contact with someone who has experienced sexual assault, they must remain ‘CALM.’
Travis explained the acronym to mean Comfort, Awareness, Listening, and Mentoring. She warned attendees not to ACCUSE: Abandon, Change the focus, Criticize, Underestimate, Share their story, and Evaluate validity. The best thing to say in these situations is, “I believe you. I support you, and I know it’s not your fault.”
Many students shared personal stories and opinions regarding sexual assault. Travis encouraged others to always be aware of surroundings and pay attention to safety.
Kayla Hopper, Vol State student, shared why she attended the event
“For me, personally, sexual assault is an occurrence that should be shared more, especially in colleges. I was able to learn more about what I can do to help and what my role is in the prevention and protection process,” said Hopper.
There are billboards located in Wood Campus Center and Caudill Hall explaining sexual assault. Everyone is encouraged to take a look at these set-ups and be informed on this issue as April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Sexual assault is a prevalent and preventable issue that requires fewer bystanders and more advocates. Students can become an advocate and be in control of what happens on their campus! They can start by tweeting #NotOnMyCampus or #ChangeTheCulture and sharing their thoughts with @TheSettler.