Sexual assault prevention groups continue to speak up in light of survey

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Justin Atkinson

Student organizations still continue to speak up for survivors in light of a recent UT survey released Friday that left many on campus speechless. 

The survey reported 15 percent of female undergraduates experienced rape since enrolling at UT, an extremely high rate for young women at a public university. 

Student organizations, however, have not been deterred. The Voices Against Violence student organization, Not On My Campus, and Texas Blazers highlight a few of the student groups on campus unsurprised by the survey who plan to continue their work as normal in sexual assault prevention.

Plan II sophomore Mia Goldstein, president of the VAV student organization, said the numbers should serve as a call to action. The survey doesn’t change what her organization is doing, because it did not come as a surprise, Goldstein said. 

“We’ve known that for a really long time interpersonal violence is a problem at the University,” Goldstein said. “(The numbers are) very harrowing because they’re too high, but also it’s not shocking. No one should be surprised.”

Goldstein said VAV’s goal is to work with more marginalized communities, including the queer community and people of color, because higher incidences of rape have been reported in these communities.  

Corporate communications junior Sydney O’Connell is a former president and co-founder of Not On My Campus, a student coalition for sexual assault prevention. O’Connell said the 15 percent is not surprising.  

“One percent is still too many,” O’Connell said. “I understand people are calling (the survey) a wake-up call, but we’ve been saying that since these coalitions got started.”

If the survey is a wake-up call for students, O’Connell said she wants students to get involved and not be bystanders. 

“With the work we do with Not ON My Campus, I feel like this is a big reason to continue our work,” O’Connell said. “I know that it’s so important on college campuses nationwide and even our own campus here at UT. There’s no room for slowing down, just keeping up with what we’re doing.”

Government senior Justin Atkinson is a committee leader in Texas Blazers, a men’s service organization on-campus. Atkinson said the numbers are not terribly surprising and they show that the majority of perpetrators are men. 

“It just really validates any man coming out and saying this is a men’s issue,” Atkinson said. “What we’re focused on is creating cultural awareness that we have to move the spotlight towards men ... (and) towards the people who are statistically more likely to commit violence.”

Atkinson said Texas Blazers has raised money for the VAV Survivors fund, and their MenCanEnd project holds round table discussions with other men’s organizations to discuss their experiences with masculinity. 

“There’s a clear connection between healthy masculinity and interpersonal violence,” Atkinson said. “Our hope is we can make that connection.”