Tarleton taking proactive approach to raise awareness of sexual assault

STEPHENVILLE (April 10, 2015) — In observance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), Tarleton State University is launching a month-long calendar of events that will address issues ranging from assault prevention to resources for victims.

The goal of SAAM, a national campaign facilitated annually by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) and the Center for Prevention and Outreach (CPO), is to make everyone aware of this serious issue and to aid the entire community in learning how to prevent sexual assault. Tarleton organizers ask fellow students, faculty and staff to play a role in creating a culture of safety, civility and respect.

Statistics regarding rape and sexual assault on college campuses across the nation are alarming, and Tarleton is joining the national effort to prevent sexual assaults this year by focusing on efforts to reach the students who are most vulnerable.

Estimates are that as many as 1 in 5 women are victims of sexual assault during the time they are enrolled in college. Young men are vulnerable as well. Approximately 10 percent of all sexual assault victims are male, according to the Rape and Incest National Network. The impact of sexual assault can be wide-ranging, with long-term health and psychological effects.

“Sexual assault strikes at the heart of our core value of civility. It is an egregious crime,” said President F. Dominic Dottavio. “The time for all of us to act to prevent sexual assault is now. Our goal is to raise awareness, and to implement best practices for providing support and service for victims. We want Tarleton to become a national model of a safe and civil campus.”

Tarleton has taken significant steps to prevent sexual assault and to provide support for anyone who suffers from an attack of this nature. The university has enhanced efforts to provide students with information about sexual assaults and ways that the risk can be minimized. Tarleton has launched a Title IX website that addresses sexual assault, outlining definitions, prevention strategies and resources for victims: www.tarleton.edu/titleix/. Also implemented was a confidential reporting option at the Student Counseling Center and Student Health Center.

On April 16, President Dottavio and staff from Tarleton’s Student Counseling Center will host a luncheon meeting to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Cross Timbers Family Services (CTFS) to take a proactive response toward sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking and other serious crimes.

The vision between the university and CTFS is to develop a coordinated response that is designed to enhance safety and justice for victims, hold perpetrators accountable and provide education to the Tarleton community that will engage social change.

In addition, President Dottavio has created a Presidential Task Force for Relational Violence to evaluate the university’s current policies and procedures regarding sexual assault response and prevention, and modifying practices that require revision.

Members of the task force are appointed by the president and will report to the university’s executive cabinet on a bi-monthly basis during the 2015-16 academic year, and will present recommendations for changes to university policies during those meetings.

In January 2014, President Barack Obama established the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. This task force recommends evaluating campus climates related to sexual assault, establishing comprehensive prevention programs, emphasizing effective response when a student is sexually assaulted, and increasing transparency with regard to these efforts.  Additionally, the passage of federal legislation entitled The Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (Campus SaVE) Act has mandated many of these recommendations.

“Our students have the power to support and safeguard each other. It is natural to feel nervous about becoming involved, but if we all agree that Texans don’t allow other Texans to get hurt, and we develop strategies for getting involved—enlisting friends for support, creating a distraction to disrupt a scene, checking in with someone who seems uncomfortable—we can change the culture,” said Dottavio.

“As Albert Einstein said, ‘the world is a dangerous place. Not because of the people who are evil; but because of the people who don’t do anything about it,’” added Dottavio. “Get involved and be bold. You don’t have to do everything, but everyone must do something.”

For more information about resources offered to victims of sexual assault, visit www.tarleton.edu/titleix/resources-for-victims.html. To learn more about the national initiative and how you can take action, go to www.nsvrc.org/saam.

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