The first six weeks of the semester are said to be the most dangerous, especially for freshmen and in regard to sexual assault.
Throughout Texas and at the University of Texas at Austin specifically, the push for an open dialogue on campus sexual assault will be expanded.
Under state law, colleges throughout Texas are required to educate students on the realities of campus sexual assault and all that the issue implies. For some colleges the standard has been to engage students once a year during orientation. At U.T. Austin the community is pushing beyond the basic requirements and looking to engage students at various points of the year and through engaging programs.
“We’re having a real conversation. What consent means, what consent looks like, creating a consent culture at U.T. Austin,” said Erin Burrows, the prevention and outreach specialist at Voices Against Violence, to KXAN. “We’re constantly reaching out to incoming freshman to make sure that they also know what resources are available on campus.”
In the spring of 2015, students at U.T. Austin rallied for the campaign “Not On My Campus UT.”
Through an online social media campaign and offline activism, students at U.T. Austin stood together vowing to become active bystanders.
“Whenever someone has experienced something like sexual assault, they want to know they have students their age backing them up on this,” said Ellen Cocanougher, an organizer of the campaign, to MTV. “Students who maybe felt alone can now see that there are so many on this campus who are incredibly passionate about ending this cultural problem.”
The goal at U.T. Austin is to change the overall culture of sexual assault on campus. Students, as well as university officials, want to make the campus a safer place, while also making it a place where bystanders feel empowered to step in if need be.
“Be vocal is our bystander intervention initiative,” Burrows said to KXAN. We must “reinforce the cultural norm that sexual violence is not tolerated here and that we do have resources for recourse, justice and healing,” she added.
Another major aspect of U.T. Austin’s push for a more engaged conversation around campus sexual assault is a study that will follow the incoming Class of 2019 throughout their four years of college.
KXAN explained the details of the study, noting that it will continuously ask students questions about their experiences and views on sexual violence. The end goal of the study will be to see the role sexual violence, which includes sexual assault, plays on campus.
The study will also be paired with extensive information on the topic.
“Colleges and universities turn a blind eye to sexual violence on campus, so it’s really good to know that the University of Texas is taking that initiative to get that information out there,” said Michelle Lacey, a freshman, to KXAN.
U.T. Austin is leading the charge on making prevention and education a priority for campus sexual assault. This is especially important given that over 100 colleges and universities are currently being investigated for violating Title IX.