Rallying Against Sexual Assault is a student-led organization at the university that aims to raise awareness about sexual violence, educate the community on consent and bystander intervention and support survivors.
If a student at the university feels like they are in a violent relationship, are confused about sexual assault or simply wants someone to talk to regarding domestic violence, RASA is a resource.
If you join the organization, you have the option to become a peer educator, someone who educates Ole Miss students on sexual assault and relationship violence.
Larissa Aquaviva, a RASA member, explained more about peer educators.
“As peer educators, we are responsible for educating the Ole Miss student body about topics such as consent, Title IX, the (Violence Intervention and Prevention) office and other sexual assault and domestic violence topics. We give presentations to EDHE classes and other groups in order to inform the Ole Miss student body about these topics,” Aquaviva said. “The goal of these presentations is to have an informed student body and a group of active bystanders to decrease the number of sexual assaults.”
Aquaviva also explained what it means to be an active bystander.
“Students can be active bystanders in many ways. The best thing to remember is when you see something, do something,” she said. “Doing something can either be getting help from others, stepping in yourself or talking to the potential victim. An active bystander should step in in the way they are most comfortable doing. As long as you do something when you see something, that is how you are an active bystander.”
Another good resource for those seeking help regarding domestic violence is Family Crisis Services of Northwest Mississippi. Family Crisis Services is a nonprofit agency that serves as a comprehensive victim services organization, providing advocacy services to survivors of sexual assault, child abuse, homicide, domestic violence and family violence.
Specific services provided by the organization include victim advocacy, on-site counseling, forensic interviewing, prevention education and community-wide awareness events.
When asked about advice she would give to someone who is experiencing abuse, Skye Cutler, receptionist at Family Crisis Services, acknowledged that getting help is never easy and advised acting in small steps.
“Reach out to someone who will listen, someone you have a steady relationship with. Then, if you are comfortable, reach out to an advocate. We have advocates here at Family Crisis Services that you can talk to. When you’re ready and comfortable, reach out to the police. That is always the hardest step, so it’s okay to start slow,” Cutler said.
Lt. Hildon Sessums of Oxford Police Department emphasized the importance of seeking help sooner rather than later.
“If someone believes they have been a victim of sexual assault, they should talk to someone as soon as possible, whether it’s a friend co-worker, medical provider or law enforcement,” Sessums said.
Sessums also spoke about the responsibility of friends and family of those who suspect their loved one is in an abusive relationship.
“If you are a friend of an abuse victim you should be doing everything you can to help the victim get out of that situation. All too often the abuser makes the victim dependent on them, so they feel like they can’t leave. The friend should also document the abuse for when the victim is ready to go forward with criminal charges. The victim often doesn’t have proof of the abuse because they are afraid of the abuser finding it,” Sessums said.
While seeking help is difficult for domestic violence survivors, it is also challenging for people to admit they are victims at all.
There are some common red flags with abusive relationships that students should be aware of.
As a victim, you are likely to experience isolation, depression, helplessness and embarrassment of your relationship. Victims frequently make excuses for their abuser. They want the abuse to stop, but they don’t want the relationship to end.
Domestic violence is defined as the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. This would include both physical violence and emotional abuse.
According to an article by Women’s Health, one in five women in college experience sexual assault, with the highest risk being within the first two semesters of class.
In Mississippi, 39.7% of women and 31.7% of men experience intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes.
Frequent character traits of an abuser include jealousy, possessiveness, controlling behavior, cruelty to animals, bad temperament and unpredictability. Anyone can be an abuser. It is rarely obvious from the outside who is capable of domestic violence. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 90% of abusers do not have a criminal record, and abusers are generally law-abiding outside the home.