Sexual assault prevalent on campus, students and faculty remain committed to change

April 21, 2014 6:58 AMComments Off

Story by Hannah Keisker

Sexual assault: It happens on the Drake University campus.

Though it’s often overlooked or swept under the rug, Drake students are determined to shed light on it, with the help of Alysa Mozak, coordinator for Sexual Violence Response and Healthy Relationship Promotion.

“One-in-five female college students will have had an attempted or completed rape by the time they graduate college,” Mozak said.

Mozak has been the coordinator since 2011.

She is the first person to hold the position at Drake University and has been a victim’s advocate for nine years.

The one thing Mozak said she wants everyone to know about sexual assault is that it is never the victim’s fault.

“I mean, it’s so simple, but it’s not. This is the only crime out of all violent crimes that we second-guess the recipient of the behavior,” Mozak said.

Using an active-bystander intervention model, Mozak is pushing for more awareness.

She said this model will teach students practical skill sets on how to intervene appropriately and safely mitigate potential assaults.

“We really need everybody to be part of this to change. It doesn’t matter what your background is. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been influenced by it,” Mozak said. “In order for the campus as a culture to change, individuals have to realize their stance in the movement.”

At Drake, the annual Vagina Monologures play a pivotal role in changing that culture.

Olivia Curti, a junior graphic design major, was inspired to participate in the Vagina Monologues after she attended her freshman year.

She said it opened her eyes to domestic violence and sexual assault.

“Sexual assault isn’t going to go away if nobody takes it seriously,” Curti said.

Unfortunately, examples of people not taking sexual assault seriously are rampant, even on Drake’s campus.

Mozak said she hears phrases like, “That test raped me,” used nonchalantly on campus.

“The language we use is part of the culture, so I really want to make sure people are aware and cognizant of their rhetoric and the way they approach things,” Mozak said.

Senior Kylie Rush is the president of Student Activists for Gender Equality.

She said she wants people to understand sexual assault is more common than they think.

Rush said when rape jokes and the perpetuation of, “Oh, she can take it,” occur, victims of sexual assault are hurt by it.

There is a lack of communication between the Drake administration and students regarding the handling of sexual assault on campus, Rush said.

“Drake and its students both tend to push things under the rug when they (sexual assaults) happen because they don’t want the bad publicity,” Rush said.

“Instead of coming out and giving a statement like, ‘This happened, but we don’t support it,’ they’ll just try to make as little people know about it as possible and handle it internally — even though it is a small campus and lot of people know about whatever the incident is,” Rush said. “And when Drake doesn’t come out and say that that’s not what they support, people automatically assume that nothing is happening like that.”

Dean of Students Sentwali Bakari said he is responsible for a range of wellness that supports student victims of sexual assault.

This includes sexual assault education, alcohol education, the health center and the counseling center.

The federal government recently released mandates to colleges and universities about responding and addressing issues of sexual assault, Bakari said.

“Part of that mandate came as a result of criticism of some institutions not doing a good of a job as they could in terms of responding to those issues,” Bakari said.

Bakari said sexual assault is an important issue, and colleges and universities around the country are having conversations on the topic.

“I can’t think of a school that’s not having these conversations around alcohol, mental health, sexual assault education, disabilities … ” Bakari said. “These are all important, sensitive issues that Drake is trying to improve on.”

Many student victims who want to talk and get help do not come to Mozak because her office is not confidential, Mozak said.

She said she has to report all incidents to the police, campus security or to the dean of students.

“I know that they exist, and I want them to find a voice and want them to feel like they have a supportive community who isn’t going to force them to do anything that they don’t want to as far as service-oriented approaches,” Mozak said.

Mozak is starting a 24-hour confidential crisis-intervention hotline, Violence Intervention Partner, to combat this issue.

Students can call in and text questions to other students who are certified victim’s advocates.

The number for the hotline is 515-512-2972.

“I know it (sexual assault) is so taboo still and socially ingrained that it’s going to take time,” Mozak said. “And it’s an uphill battle, but I’m here with some good shoes to fight it.”

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