UB discusses how to help sexual assault survivors
Wellness Education Services shows students what to do when someone is sexually assaulted
The lights dimmed inside Student Union 330 and a video about sexual assault and rape crimes began: Two drug-abusing criminals theoretically rape a police officer in an alley.
After the very detailed and very explicit video ends, Aaron Maracle talked about how the experience of the hypothetical male police officer is very similar to the experience of any woman who may have been a survivor of sexual assault.
Maracle, an assistant violence prevention specialist with Wellness Education Services, said that Health Education Wellness Services has been putting on programs like this for close to 10 years now.
“[Sexual assault is] one of the most underreported crimes,” Maracle said. “That doesn’t mean folks aren’t telling someone but that their just not going to the police or an official body to actually report it. We want to give the tools to those people that might be having these events reported to them the tools to respond appropriately to the survivor of sexual assault.”
Studies of sexual violence have shown many people, especially those on college campuses, have or will be affected by sexual violence and many times the crimes go unreported to police or any official bodies.
University Police had just eight reports of sex offenses in 2014, according to the department’s Clery Act Crime statistics.
Jackie Page, a second-year clinical nutrition graduate student, said she thinks it’s important for people to be aware that sexual assaults happen and that they should have a working knowledge of how to respond when a friend or coworker opens up to them about being sexually assaulted.
“Its important that you respond to assault victims the way you would want others to respond to you,” Page said. “Always believe that what they’re saying is true and never blame the victim.”
Page said she also learned that it is important that a person doesn’t force the victim to do anything that they don’t want to do.
“They just lost control of the one thing in their life that they believed they had complete control over, so the person helping them should allow them to regain control of their lives by letting them decide what steps they want to take,” Page said.
Page said UB has a lot of resources on campus and it really comes down to students “needing to be more informed” about the resources made available to them.
Although the primary victim of sexual assault can be affected by the experience in many unique ways, it is also important to remember that secondary survivors, those who have witnessed or have had survivors open up to them about their experience, might also require help in coping with the sexual assault crime they witnessed or were told about.
“Secondary survivors can include folks from friends and family to coworkers and teammates,” Maracle said. “Its hard for people to believe that something like sexual assault could happen to somebody they know and they might internalize that and think ‘Well what if it can happen to me?’”
Mark Russell, a second-year masters student in social work and co-host of the event on sexual assault, said his internship at the sexual violence prevention unit is to become more informed and be able to facilitate these types of educational programs meant to reduce campus sexual violence.
“From the first time I stepped foot on this campus to now, I’ve notice how people’s views on topics like sexual violence have changed traumatically and there’s less blame and a lot more support for victims of sexual violence and it’s a lot more understood that acts like this aren’t okay,” Russell said.
Russell said that men typically have a hard time believing that sexual assault can happen to them. He also spoke about an upcoming event Wellness Education Services will be hosting related to masculinity and “what it means to be a man.”
“I think UB does a great job of responding to [sexual assault] occurrences,” Maracle said. “The folks in Equity Diversity Inclusion, our Judicial Affairs office, our counseling services and our police also do a great job of responding to incidents. There’s always work that can be done in terms of getting the word out there that survivors have options and that this is a campus that will support its survivors and will be there in anyway that it possibly can.”
For more information on how to get help after being sexually assault, students can stop by the Wellness Education Services office located at 114 Student Union on North Campus.
Tomas Olivier is a features desk editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.