Radford University hosts forum on sexual assault

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More than 100 Radford University students, faculty and staff spoke openly last week about an important yet tough topic being addressed on college campuses nationwide.

"One in five women will be a victim of sexual assault while they are in college," Student Government Association President Colby Bender advised the audience, which filled the Hurlburt Student Center Auditorium.

"One is too many," continued Bender, who collected the statistic from the White House website.

Multiple RU departments and community organizations sponsored the university's first-ever "Consent: A Forum on Sexual Assault" on Sept. 10 to raise awareness about sexual assault.

Organized by SGA Vice President Tiffany Goins, the forum featured seven panelists who carry a broad range of knowledge and resources on the subject matter. The panelists were: Brooke Chang, RU Title IX Coordinator and director of Diversity and Equity; Sgt. Scott Shaffer, Radford University Police Department; Mary Ashlyn Alderman, sexual assault advocate/community educator with the Women's Resource Center; Devin Dausin, assistant director of Student Standards and Conduct; Julie Dill, SAVES coordinator; Logan Smith, at-large senator for SGA and Pi Lambda Phi fraternity member; and Carla Cross, police detective at the Radford City Police Department.

Before the forum began, the audience was asked to fill out an online survey. Twelve questions touched on sexual assault topics, such as the definition of consent and what steps a person can take if he or she is or was assaulted.

As forum facilitators, Bender and Goins revealed answers to the questions, and the panelists weighed in and furthered the discussion. Each of the panelists served as a reminder that students do not have to look far to find the resources they need if involved in a situation where they or someone they know are sexually assaulted.

"Forums such as this give us yet another opportunity for face time with our students and to provide them with information to keep them healthy and safe," Shaffer said.


Panel members at the "Consent: A Forum on Sexual Assault"

According to the White House website, 84 percent of the college women who reported a sexual assault experienced the incident during their freshman or sophomore years.

But it's not just women who are affected, reminded Goins, "men are affected, too, and I think our student body really gets that," she said, addressing the mix of males and females in attendance.

Goins is the catalyst behind RU's Consent Campaign, which launched during the 2013-14 spring semester.

At the time, Goins was an SGA senator with a platform promoting campus safety and awareness. With guidance from Erin Webster Garrett of RU's English Department, Michele Ren of the Women's Resource Center, Dill and Alderman, she began researching the topic and formed an SGA committee to address it.  Several RU departments and student organizations, such as the Greek Life community and athletic teams, volunteered to join the effort.

SGA members began promoting the campus wide campaign, which consisted of Consent T-shirts and stickers. Students wanted to get their hands on the eye-catching campaign tools, Goins said, "but what we really wanted was for them to know what the campaign was all about."

"How do we get them engaged?" Goins asked.

The answer rested in the Sept. 10 forum.

"The coalition of students, faculty, staff and community members was instrumental in educating the RU community on issues of sexual assault and consent while fostering a supportive environment for survivors," said Dean of Students and SGA Faculty Advisor Irvin Clark. "I know the goal of the forum was achieved through the dialogue of the panelists and provided participants with a better understanding of this very important topic."  

The forum comes amidst recent state and national headlines outlining sexual assault occurrences.

Just last month, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced plans to form a task force to combat sexual violence at Virginia's colleges and universities.

Radford University President Penelope W. Kyle was one of 17 public higher education leaders to join McAuliffe and Attorney General Mark. R. Herring in signing a declaration to battle sexual violence.

Radford's proactive approach to addressing the topic will continue throughout the 2014-15 academic year.

To learn more about or become involved in RU's Consent Campaign, contact Goins at tgoins@radford.edu.

Sep 19, 2014