It’s time to look deeper into the sexual assault statistics at the University of Wyoming; it’s time to make improvements at UW in sexual assault prevention; it’s time for students to join President Nichols in saying NO MORE.
Every couple of years, UW does a climate survey with the students concerning campus safety and one aspect is sexual assault. This year, UW took the next step in stopping sexual assault on campus and had a student summit event in the Union Ballroom where individuals could sign up for a free meal and open conversation about sexual assault and how they would want to see UW attempting to prevent it.
Megan Celheim, the program coordinator of the Stop Violence Program on campus, has been in the prevention field since she was in grad school eight years ago at Montana State University. She has been continuing her efforts in sexual assault prevention at UW since 2013 communicating with other universities about their strategies concerning sexual assault on their campuses.
“There are a lot of people who are really wanting to talk about it,” explained Celheim, “because they see it is a problem and they want to figure out what to do about it, but it’s hard to know to whom you talk and how you talk about it because it is so difficult for people and people do have very strong opinions about it.”
The Student Summit, an idea shared with Celheim from friends at a university in Indiana, gave the perfect setting for students to share their thoughts on specific aspects of the issue with no repercussions or judgements. There were multiple topics that students could discuss including Empowering Bystanders, Reporting and UW Policies and Procedures, Identifying Resources, Alcohol and Sexual Assault, Supporting Survivors, Consent, and Intimate Partner Violence.
Jordan Secher, a senior and English major at UW, attended the event after a good friend, who participated as a student leader in the discussions for the night, invited her for a free dinner and educational conversation. Secher participates in the Supporting Survivors discussion where they spoke strongly on the fact that discrimination is a main factor in the reasoning behind victims not speaking up. An example she shared was the fact that white males are portrayed to be the assaulters and not the assaulted to a point that they feel threatened in sharing their incidents. Also, individuals who are disabled in one way or another keep their voices to themselves, as well, due to the lack of respect they receive and the fear that they would lose more of their voice by sharing such an instance.
“I wish I knew about this earlier because I have friends who would really enjoy this and benefit from it and have a lot of things that they could add to it,” explained Secher, “so I’m really glad I heard about it just earlier today, and I would definitely come to it again.”
President Nichols attended, as well, in order to give a speech to the crowd and to participate in the event. Secher spoke on the fact that President Nichols has gained much more of her respect due to her genuine demonstration of want to prevent sexual assault on the campus she “looks after” in a sense. President Nichols attended even after coming down with laryngitis earlier in the day; a display of her dedication on the subject.
Overall, the event was a success in the eyes of the creators and a report on the student discussions will be filed and shared with the public. This is only a small step towards a big problem, and the STOP Violence Program is paving the way for individuals to take up arms in this pertinent battle on UW campus.
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