Sexual assault awareness month

This Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, Aggies and the Bryan-College Station community are highlighting resources for victims and survivors.

April 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. April is dedicated to creating awareness and fostering education in the hopes of decreasing cases of sexual assault while increasing understanding and prevention. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five American women and one in 38 men have experienced, attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. These statistics make it clear consent needs to be prioritized.

To clarify what constitutes consent, Aggie Feminists for Reproductive Equity & Education President and sociology senior Shelby Wilkins said her organization offers free consent workshops for other student organizations as well as dorms on campus.

“We have been doing consent workshops for a few years now,” Wilkins said. “We give an introduction to consent, Title IX at Texas A&M, self care and resources for survivors.”

Due to the ongoing pandemic, Wilkins said the workshops are being held virtually to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19.

“These workshops are completely free and last around 45 minutes,” Wilkins said. “People can request them by filling out the Google form in our Linktree.”

The workshops, Wilkins said, make the definition of consent comprehensible in order to eliminate potential misunderstandings.

“Consent means clear, voluntary and positive verbal or nonverbal communication that all participants have agreed to at the time of the activity,” Wilkins said. “Student Rule 24 also clarifies that a bit more.”

Student Rule 24.1.6 says consent must be given for current sexual activity. The rule also states that the existence of a prior relationship or activity does not ensure consent for current or future activities.

“There must be consent for each specific type of act throughout the activity,” the rule reads. “Consent must be given by each participant involved. A person must be 17 years of age or older to be able to consent to sexual activity if the other participant(s) involved are more than three years of age older than that person. A person who is clearly or visibly incapacitated is not able to give consent to sexual activity.”

A&M offers resources for survivors of sexual assault and bystander intervention services like Green Dot training. The Brazos Valley also offers resources for survivors such as the Sexual Assault Resource Center.

A&M’s Sexual Assault Survivors Services Commmittee member and former chairperson Kristen Harrell said in an email to The Battalion there are a variety of resources both on and off campus.

“On-campus resources include Civil Rights and Equity Investigations, Counseling and Psychological Services and Student Health Services,” Harrell said in an email. “Off-campus resources include the Sexual Assault Resource Center and local hospitals.”

For those seeking forensic exams following an assault, Harrell said the Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in College Station has trained sexual assault nurse examiners in its forensic medicine unit.

When supporting a survivor, Harrell said the biggest priority should be to listen to and give the survivor as much control as possible over what and how much to share and their next steps.

“A supporter can educate themselves on resources to be able to provide options to a survivor and consider ways to provide those options so that the survivor can choose to access them when they are ready,” Harrell said in an email. “Individuals should always seek consent to touch others, but should be especially thoughtful about, if wanting to physically comfort a survivor, ensuring that is what the survivor wants.”

For those looking to learn more about supporting survivors, Harrell said there are additional resources available on A&M’s campus.

“Students, faculty and staff who are interested in learning more about supporting survivors are encouraged to attend a STAND Up Workshop developed by the Sexual Assault Survivors Services committee and hosted by Health Promotion in the Offices of the Dean of Student Life,” Harrell said in an email.

The National Sexual Assault Hotline can be reached by calling 800-656-4673.

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