Preventing and reporting sexual assault on college campuses has become a national conversation in the last few years, and the University of Nevada, Reno, has not been exempt from the issue.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 16 men will be sexually assaulted while in college.
Nevada law defines sexual assault as “any unwanted, forced, or coerced sexual act,” according to UNR’s Counseling Services website. It also notes that there are certain people who cannot give consent legally. These people include those that are under the age of 16, under the influence of alcohol or drugs and/or mentally or physically challenged.
In 2015, UNR’s Title IX office handled 16 reports of sexual assault, increasing dramatically from one report in 2013 and six in 2014.
Denise Cordova, director of the Title IX office on campus, told the Reno Gazette-Journal in 2016 she believes the increase in reports is because the university has increased education on consent. She also said that low percentages of people report sexual assaults.
“The information is getting out there,” Cordova said in a 2016 interview with The Nevada Sagebrush. “We’re doing everything possible for our faculty, students and staff to know who to report to if there is sexual assault or any interpersonal violence. We’ve been pushing this information out there since 2012 to get the information to everyone. The increase [in sexual assaults reported] is directly related to us getting all of this information out.”
The month of April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The cause was given its own month in the 1990s in order to bring more awareness to the issue. In more recent years, the conversation has turned to preventing and reporting sexual assaults on college campuses nationwide.
Jack Zandi and the three other members of Capptivation in Chappaqua, New York, were astounded by the statistics of campus sexual assault and decided to create an app to help survivors of sexual assault navigate their options in a free and anonymous way.
The app, Reach Out Editions, is an all-inclusive interface for those who do not know what to do if they are sexually assaulted.
“It takes survivors step-by-step through the myriad processes involved in the aftermath of the assault, whether they need help navigating the medical system, the adjudication system at their college or the criminal justice system,” Zandi said.
The app is specific to the university a survivor attends. After downloading the app, the user chooses which university they attend and the app gives the user the resources available to them based on their location. It also tells the user which services will keep them completely anonymous.
Zandi said that by keeping the information anonymous, the trust between survivors and resources increases.
In the app, there is a tab labeled “Start Here,” with the steps of what to do after an assault. By clicking on each step, there is more detailed information about what to do and who to contact at that step. These steps include finding a safe place, preserving evidence, medical attention and ways to recover from the assault.
“The numbers are appalling: one in four women, one in four trans people, and one in four men will experience some form of sexual misconduct by the time they graduate,” Zandi said. “This is a public health crisis, and there exists a dearth of solutions. Even more worrisome is the backlash against those who are speaking up about campus assault. The crisis is being denigrated as paranoia, but the numbers don’t lie. Assaults are being committed at extreme rates, and everyone needs to step up to abate the crisis.”
Reach Out Editions has been very successful since it was released. It has now expanded to uses beyond college campuses, including high schools and the military. It has also expanded to address issues survivors face, such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders.
UNR will be hosting events for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. On April 25 and 26, there will be a documentary and conversation held in the Joe Crowley Student Union theatres at 7 p.m. both days. Attendees can hear from four men about what it means to be a man. Justine Hernandez, a campus project coordinator for Nevada Reduce Sexual Assault, Violence and Stalking who specializes in violence prevention education, is working to engage men in their role in preventing violence.
Hernandez released an article with NSights, which is part of NevadaToday. Her article is titled, “Getting real about the realities of sexual assault.”
“It is a conscious choice from the perpetrator to violate another person at the deepest level,” she said in the article. “The White House reported that one in five women will be sexually assaulted while in college. The numbers are too large to ignore and they require our immediate action and dedication to ensure that all students can receive an education and have a memorable college experience without being impacted by violence.”
The most public example of campus sexual assault right now is Baylor University’s handling of multiple sexual assault reports against members of the university’s football team.
Baylor is now facing multiple federal lawsuits in which victims say the university suppressed their reports and created a culture of rape on campus. A voluntary investigation by Baylor leadership led to the dismissal of the head football coach, Art Briles, and the resignation of the university president, Ken Starr.
Texas lawmakers are responding to the scandal by proposing legislation that requires university employees and student leaders to report knowledge of sexual assaults to the authorities immediately. If they fail to comply, they could face expulsion or criminal charges.
“It’s time we changed the culture on college campuses,” said Texas Sen. Joan Huffman to the Associated Press. “Texas must lead the way on this issue.”
A survey sent out at the University of Texas showed that about 15 percent of female undergraduate students have been sexually assaulted. That’s around 7,500 female students.
Zandi said that the issue is not only sexual assault but also rape culture.
“Fighting rape culture must happen at the ground level, through grassroots efforts or otherwise,” Zandi said. “Bystander intervention is one incredibly effective preventative effort, and offering support to a friend who has been assaulted is yet another way to annihilate rape culture.”
For more information on sexual assault, visit UNR’s Title IX website and www.nsvrc.org.
Madeline Purdue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @madelinepurdue.
Corrections: The Nevada Sagebrush stated that Baylor football coach Art Briles resigned because of lawsuits. He was dismissed because of a voluntary investigation held by the school. We also stated the survey was held at Baylor University when it was held by the University of Texas.
It was stated that Justine Hernandez would be hosting a Women’s Advocacy Expo on April 28. This event was held in April 2016.