The recent reports of sexual assault that have been happening on and near college campus prompt many students’ reactions. When hearing about these attacks, you may find yourself feeling emotions from empathy to sadness to fear to disbelief. How could this happen so close?
President Knapp’s response to the sexual violence has said a lot of what many of us have felt. Although we are a Christian campus that relies on faith and support of our community and student body, even Hope is susceptible to the dangers of sexual assault.
National Sexual Violence Resource Center says sexual assault is the nation’s most under-reported crime. One out of five women and one out of 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college. More than 90% of victims on college campuses do not report what has been done to them.
Hope has come far in raising awareness on this danger and encourages students to report these crimes whenever they occur. It is also understandable that sexual assault is a sensitive subject. If you are a victim of sexual assault or know of a friend who is seeking counsel, there are many confidential resources on campus.
Hope’s confidential victim advocate is Sara Bazydlo. Sara is a nonjudgmental, private support to student survivors of interpersonal violence. She will not release personal information without your permission. She will not start a formal judicial or criminal process, unless the individual wants access to those. She is a professional who has been trained to help students navigate options and services on campus and in the community.
You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or her direct line 616-395-7802. Any member of Hope’s community can reach Sara for victim services or to ask questions about resources. Other confidential resources on campus include Campus Ministries staff, Counseling and Psychological Services and the Health Center staff.
It is time as a student body and community to come together and support our fellow students and friends. Whether it is being an active bystander or a support system for those who are victims. Being an active bystander can save someone from being a survivor. Being a bystander can be carried out by an individual or a group and reduce the risk of a potential harmful situation. It just takes recognizing those “red flags” and taking action to intervene.
Some tips for being an active bystander are to direct, distract or delegate. The direct approach should be only done if it’s safe to do so. Directly confront the situation by checking in, asking if everything is okay or stating that you feel uncomfortable with what’s happening.
If being direct is not an option, try distract. This can diffuse the situation, reduce the risk of anything bad happening and give you time to follow up and make sure everything is okay. If you don’t want to put yourself in the situation, you can always delegate. This can be done by getting a close friend to help you or finding someone with authority like your RA or by contacting Campus Safety at 616-395-700 or calling 911.
The fight against sexual assault can be done in other ways as well, not only as being a support or active bystander, but by also being a proactive bystander. This mean doing the little things every day through words, thoughts and actions to promote campus safety, healthy relationships, care and respect.
Being a proactive bystander promotes two ideas: that violence is not tolerated in our community and we have the responsibility to contribute positively to our campus.
STEP, Students Educating and Empowering Peers, has started a campaign to bring awareness to Hope’s campus.
Become a part of the cause and sign the “It’s on Us” pledge today, which you can do at itsonus.org/#pledge. The pledge is a personal commitment to help keep women and men safe from sexual assault. It is a promise not to be a bystander to the problem, but to be part of the solution.
You can pledge to recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault, to identify a situation in which sexual assault may occur, to intervene where consent has not or cannot be given, to create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.
Survivors of sexual assault are never to blame. Nobody has the right to violate another person and make unwanted sexual advances. Hope cannot tolerate this.
You can help your community just by bringing this issue to your attention and those you know. It only takes the small steps to help your campus community.
Let the survivors of this student body know that they are supported. It’s on us.