Events address assault

Story by Kristin Babcock

This article was originally published prior to June 2, 2013.  Due to a change in content management systems, the initial publication date is not available.

Wearing teal ribbons and holding informative events on Baker University’s campus, those associated with the Women’s Programs and Initiatives have worked diligently throughout the month to bring awareness to the issue of sexual assault.

Throughout the month of April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the organization has hosted a vigil for victims, a photo documentary depicting a date rape and speaker Andrea Cooper who presented “Kristin’s Story.”

Coordinator of Women’s Programs Tracy Williams said April 9 through April 13 was “jam-packed” with activities to start conversations about the issue.

“There is quite a difference between awareness and behavior change,” Williams said. “We want people to start talking, to think about sexual violence. The purpose is to create awareness that this is a serious topic, so what can we do?”

Through “Kristin’s Story,” students heard about Kristin Cooper, a former Baker student who was date-raped and later committed suicide.

Sophomore Brandon Jacobs attended the presentation and said he thought the information was important for all who attended.

“The girl went to Baker, so it kind of struck home that it doesn’t just happen at other schools,” Jacobs said. “I learned a lot about how that sort of thing can affect somebody, the psychological things, how deep it can actually go.”

At each event, Peer Educators, who are students involved with the Women’s Programs and Initiatives, were present to provide assistance to any student who needed or wanted to talk about the information presented.

Freshman Emily Beye said the point was not to give medical or counseling assistance, but to give comfort and lead someone to more help.

“I definitely think awareness is a big part of ending the problems that are happening. Our job is to be helpful so that everyone is able to get the information they need,” Beye said. “I definitely think the biggest part is being open and being aware of what is going on because without that, it is very easy to judge someone.”

Williams said for anyone, whether a survivor or acquaintance of someone who has experienced sexual assault, should remember there are people available to talk with, whether it be someone at the counseling center or a peer educator.

“You can … talk to (Counseling Center Director) Kelly (Bowers) and me,” Williams said. “I’ve had friends come in to talk about helping a friend who was sexually abused. … Kelly and I are available for just talking things out.”

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, 25 percent of women in college are victims of rape or attempted rape. Only 5 percent of incidents are reported to the police. Williams said those statistics are reasons she believes the awareness month is so important, saying the statistics make sexual assault “the most underreported crime in America.”