Word on the issue: Red Zone

Posted on Oct 27 2016 - 8:01am by Devna Bose
jeff vitter

Photo by: Cady Herring

Jeffrey Vitter, Chancellor of the University of Mississippi

We have a Violence Prevention office, UPD and Title IX on campus – what other steps is the University taking to prevent and actively deal with cases of sexual assault on this campus?

“Creating a greater awareness of sexual assault on our campuses is a top priority for our university.  We’ve launched a comprehensive resource website called UMSAFE. We’ve also enhanced our programming for first-year students through EDHE classes and promoted It’s On Us Week last year and again this year.

Our prevention efforts include starting a new peer educator program through a partnership between RASA (Rebels Against Sexual Assault) and the Violence Prevention Office. We’ve also increased emphasis on faculty and staff training, including a new mandatory online program that begins next month.

We are one of only a few institutions in the SEC to offer sexual assault nurse examiners to students on campus in our Student Health Center. And beginning next month, we will start offering the LiveSafe app, which will provide our students with the ability to text UPD, send in anonymous tips and get resources and support. It will also allow students to ask their friends or family to watch them walk live with GPS technology through the app or online to enhance their safety on campus and in the community.

Our university leadership recognizes that sexual violence is a major issue that affects public health, human rights, and social justice.  The UM Creed asks us to respect the dignity of each person and is the foundation for our institutional commitment to preventing and ending sexual violence for our university community.”

austin powell

Photo courtesy: Austin Powell

Austin Powell, ASB president

How is ASB working to prevent sexual misconduct on this campus and educate Ole Miss students?

“ASB has been pro-active in raising awareness on the Ole Miss campus through the  It’s On Us campaign, a White House initiative geared to ending sexual assault on college campuses. By supporting different organizations like Rebels Against Sexual Assault, a student organization that has made educating Rebels about sexual assault their mission, we’ve been able to make strides in  holding dialogues about what sexual assault means in the Ole Miss community. ASB firmly believes in supporting survivors and students and we want to contribute to a safer campus.”

sydney green

Photo by: Devna Bose

Sydney Green, Rebels Against Sexual Assault president

What have you learned by educating other people on the resources for survivors and those affected?

“One of RASA’s main goals is education so we developed a peer education program to present to other student organizations information about the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses, importance of affirmative consent, and the resources our university offers to those impacted by any type of sexual harassment. I’ve learned that most students are completely unaware of the numerous resources that our university offers free of charge to survivors of sexual assault, and those who experience stalking, sexual harassment, or relationship violence.”

tanya nichols

Photo by: Devna Bose

Tanya Nichols, psychologist at the Ole Miss Counseling Center

Approximately how many cases of sexual assault do you see a month? How are these survivors affected?

“It really depends. I wouldn’t say there’s a certain number per month. I’ve probably had five over the past year. That can be an underestimation. A lot of people may not be at a place where they are ready for counseling. There might be a lot more. We know there is a lot more occurring. Not everyone wants to begin addressing that type of trauma through psychotherapy and counseling. Some people choose not to get treatment. Some of the things that come up are issues related to safety and control, and also how that trauma affects relationships and their own sexuality. There are a number of symptoms related to the trauma, like anxiety, hyper vigilance. depression, feeling disconnected and unattached from others… those are areas where counseling can be really helpful. Overall, sexual assault can affect how people think of themselves, think of other people, and think of the world. The aim of therapy is to not only address the symptoms, but also the psychosocial emotional factors. I would encourage people to seek counseling. People can only ignore these issues to a point. They might ignore it and try to forget they are there, and those feelings and emotions might ooze out in other areas in the form of anger, anxiety, and sadness. Addressing it in a healthy productive way can be one of the greatest gifts someone can give to himself or herself. By going through counseling, that’s the only way you can start thing journey of healing and recovery. It’s a really important process. There are a lot of different issues to sort out. It’s important to sort that out with a professional.”

jarvis benson

Photo by: Devna Bose

Jarvis Benson, ASB Board for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement member

Do you know the definition of consent and where did you learn it?

“Yes, I do know the definition of consent. I would say the definition of consent would be a clear communication of affirmation or negation, like yes or no, between both parties. I learned it from just being aware and discussions I had… just being aware of what I want from a person. It’s important to always have consent.”

jade orellana

Photo by: Devna Bose

Jade Orellana, FEMISS publicity chair
What does it mean to be an active bystander?

“Being an active bystander means being educated enough on the issue of rape culture to step in when you know something or someone is doing something wrong. If you allow those things to happen, you allow rape culture to thrive and grow in our society.”

acacia santos

Photo by: Devna Bose

Acacia Santos, Miss Ole Miss
Why is it important to shed light on issues regarding sexual assault at Ole Miss?
“Ignorance is never bliss. It’s important to shed light on issues regarding sexual assault because an informed population can ultimately be a proactive population. If the members of our community know what constitutes sexual assault, know what consent means, know that there are safe places to go on our campus, and know that their voices will be heard if they wish it so, then we better equip ourselves with the tools to be a safer community. By initiating the discussion and providing much needed information, I truly believe prevention would be an outcome. Sexual assault is an epidemic that plagues everyone; if we shed light, we can change the outcome of any night and any life.”
mary scott polk

Photo by: Devna Bose

Mary Scott Polk, sophomore general engineering major from Little Rock, Arkansas
How could the university improve its methods of handling sexual assault on this campus?
“It’s more of a “brush it under the rug” thing. We know it’s happening but people choose to ignore it. It’s a serious issue and it’s damaging people on this campus emotionally and physically, especially when it’s ignored.”