By: Megan Graves, Columnist
While the school year is still relatively new, I’d like to take some time to talk to you all once again about consent and sexual violence prevention.
Starting a new school year can always be new and confusing. There can be a lot going on, and it can be hard to get a handle on everything. In addition to the newness and confusion, however, crimes (including sexual violence) spike during the first six weeks of a new school year. Because of this, these first few weeks are referred to as the “Red Zone.”
It’s especially important during this time to understand how we can all help to prevent and reduce the risk of sexual violence and to know what to do if we or someone we know is a survivor.
I had the chance to talk to Kailah Carden, Towson’s sexual violence prevention educator. She gave me some great information that I’m excited to share with you, and if you want to know more, feel free to send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She’s super nice, and she’d love to fill you in.
Did you all know that our professors here are “responsible employees?” This means that if they hear of an act of sexual violence, they have to report it to the Office of Institutional Equity.
I know that title sounds a bit intimidating, but it’s actually an excellent resource, and anything they offer you or suggest is completely optional. You are in no way obligated to utilize the resources they offer you.
For example, if you are a survivor of sexual violence (which includes sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, stalking, relationship violence and sexual intimidation) and need reasonable assistance with your classes, they can do that for you so that you do not have to disclose what you’re going through to your professors. They can also get you in contact with other resources that can help you.
In addition, Towson now has a great new webpage, towson.edu/xoutsexualviolence, where you can report acts of sexual violence online. The Health and Counseling centers are also here to help. They are open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
A great off-campus resource is Turn Around. It’s a 24/7 hotline that can connect you to free counseling and advocacy. An advocate can accompany you to any appointments you need, such as medical, legal or university appointments. They can offer you advice and resources to help you navigate what can be highly traumatic and difficult.
In addition to these resources, I’d also like to share some prevention methods you can take to help keep sexual violence off of our campus.
The first and most important method is to fully and completely know what consent is and what consent is not. If you are confused or unsure, don’t be embarrassed. Just check out the website I mentioned earlier, or reach out to Kailah. She is here to help!
In addition to understanding consent, we have to remember how important bystanders are in preventing sexual violence. If you’re going to throw a party, make sure you can see everyone or that you have a group of friends making sure everyone is okay. Be mindful that some perpetrators use seclusion and prevent giving them that chance.
Keeping the lights brighter and the music a little softer can help you see and hear what’s going on at your party and prevent sexual violence.
In terms of risk reduction, I highly recommend the free app Circle of 6. This allows you to add 6 people that you can contact for three different things at the push of a button. You can ask for help getting home, which automatically sends your location to all 6 people. You can ask for an interruption, and they will be prompted to call you, or you can say that you need to talk.
If you are an RA, this would be a great opportunity to help keep everyone on your floor safe. Recommend the app and offer to be one of the six. New students may not have a good support system built up just yet, and this is an easy way to keep them safe.
As a reminder, sexual violence is never the fault of the survivor. If you know someone who has endured sexual violence, remind them that you believe them, that they are strong and that you are there for them. If we work together, we really can make a difference and help keep our community safe.