Town hall makes for open discussion on assault
Published: Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 02:02
Since the assault near campus on Jan. 15, community members, Oregon State University students and staff have been discussing sexual violence, prevention and awareness.
In an effort for a more interactive approach, Larry Roper, vice provost of student affairs, facilitated a conversation between the public and a panel of seven. The panel was composed of representatives from different groups on campus that deal with sexual assault and violence, like Sexual Assault Support Services and Men’s Development and Engagement.
“Sexual violence is very real on college campuses,” said Olivia Paradis, a panel member representing Every1. “It’s important to reach as many people as we can to learn the reality of [sexual assault and violence].”
The town hall meeting, which began at 5:30 p.m., was held in the LaSells Stewart Center. There were more than 100 audience members, about a third of which were resident assistants. After each member introduced him or herself, Roper opened the forum up to the audience.
Audience members slowly worked their way to one of the two microphones in the front of the auditorium. The first question inquired as to why it took a stranger assault for Oregon State to react to sexual violence on campus.
“Stranger assault can be a catalyst to spark conversations,” said Carrie Giese, Sexual Violence Prevention and Education Coordinator.
Audience members made it clear they want more education about sexual violence and assault on campus.
“Do we want this conversation to be yearly?” said Giese, in response to audience members’ interest in increased educational classes.
There was also talk about a want for developing a class under baccalaureate core that students would be required to take in order to learn about sexual violence and things like “rape culture.”
There was also a discussion about the males’ role in sexual violence. Nicolas Daily, who represented Men’s Development and Engagement, talked about how the group “reexamines masculinity.”
A male member of the audience brought up his discomfort walking at night around campus. He felt like a threat for simply being a male.
Daily wasn’t sure how to answer, because this is something he struggles with, too. Daily suggested, making unfamiliar interactions friendly ones by saying hello.
“Carrying with you that consciousness that your presence represents a threat,” Roper interjected, is the first step to sexual violence awareness.
“Larry Roper said it perfectly,” said Lucas Schalewski, a grad student studying college student services administration.
Schalewski is also part of Men’s Development and Engagement.
“Awareness is the first step. Then comes understanding, knowledge and application to prevent sexual assault,” Schalewski said.
The issue of physical protection, like self-defense, also came up.
The panel seemed to collectively agree, “self-defense is not always effective.” They don’t discourage people from taking self-defense classes.
Giese made the point that alcohol also plays a role in reacting to a situation, such as stranger sexual assault. She and other panel members said people aren’t always thinking about defending themselves, thus putting them at a disadvantage if they strictly rely on physical defensive measures.
Another audience member was looking for advice on how to diffuse a situation, at a party or bar for example, he felt uncomfortable with. Panel members jumped at this opportunity to talk about distracting aggressive people by saying, “Hey, I think your car is being towed.”
The panel also came to agreement that intervening in a public situation could easily become a collaborative effort. By asking those around you if they feel as uncomfortable with the situation as you do, it’s easy to diffuse a situation with a group.
Other topics of discussion included a want for increased lighting on campus and an interest in law enforcement’s involvement.
“We’re trying to increase our presence,” said Lt. Mitchell, Oregon State Police. “Often times we’ll go out to the community and find there were 12 more [sexual assaults] not reported.”
According to Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 54 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police.
If you have seen or heard something, or are involved in a sexual assault, Mitchell urges you to call the police immediately.
“Don’t hesitate to call,” Mitchell said. “Time is of the essence.”
For resources on campus, the panel urges students to visit Counseling and Psychological Services or Sexual Assault Support Services in Snell Hall, or speak with a doctor or nurse in Student Health Services. For off-campus resources, students can visit Center Against Rape and Domestic Violence on downtown 3rd Street.
Megan Campbell, forum editor