What students should know about reporting sexual harassment, assault

Title IX Deputy Coordinator Abigail Morrison presents on BYU’s Title IX resources. Title IX partnered with BYU’ Women of Color club to host the event. (Jackie Durfey)

Sexual Assault Awareness Night, held by BYU’s Women of Color club on Feb. 8, gave students the space to learn and discuss feelings and experiences regarding sexual assault.

BYU’s Women of Color club partnered with the Un-Alone club, the Boxing club, Students Against Sexual Assault and BYU’s Title IX to organize the event. Cordelia Pallares, president of the Women of Color club, introduced the event and explained its purpose.

“We really wanted this event to be a safe place to talk about (sexual assault) so that you know that there are people out there that understand and want to help you,” Pallares said, addressing attendees.

According to RAINN, the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the U.S., ages 12-34 are the highest risk years for rape and sexual assault. 

BYU’s Women of Color Club Vice President Amaya Cartwright recites an original poem about her experience as a victim of sexual assault. Cartwright was one of several presenters shedding light on sexual assault on BYU campus. (Jackie Durfey)

BYU’s 2022 campus climate survey reported female students experienced unwanted sexual contact nearly six times more frequently than male students. This unwanted sexual contact includes, but is not limited to, unwanted kissing, touching and rape.

Pallares said the idea for the event came because all members of the Women of Color club presidency had experienced sexual assault in some form.

“(Sexual assault) can still happen at BYU even though it is a religious school … we still need to be aware of these things and understand that people are going through these things,” Pallares said.

The campus climate survey found 73% of unwanted sexual contact incidents are not reported to any formal organization, such as BYU Title IX or CAPS; while 24% of incidents go unreported altogether. Survey respondents who said they reported most commonly reported to their ecclesiastical leader as well.

According to David Rasmussen, BYU Title IX coordinator, many people fear reporting because they don’t know what will happen to them or the perpetrator. Title IX does its best to ease their concern, he said.

“When someone comes in, our biggest thing is making sure they know all the options available to them so that they can make an informed decision about how they want to proceed,” Rasmussen said.

BYU’s Title IX website displays several process flowcharts to help students understand what steps follow filing for a formal investigation, an informal resolution or an informational report.

Students gather in the Wilkinson Student Center to attend the Sexual Assault Awareness Night. The event consisted of presenters, treats and info tables. (Jackie Durfey)

Jackie Nunez, assistant director and sexual assault survivor advocate for BYU Women’s Services and Resources, said an additional barrier to reporting sexual assault is embarrassment. 

“There’s a lot of shame and guilt that comes with having experienced sexual assault … I’m impressed by the courage it takes to even reach out for help,” Nunez said.

According to the BYU Title IX website, victim advocates such as Nunez “provide support, guidance and information to help students make more informed choices regarding their situation.” Their services are free and confidential.

“When I meet with somebody one-on-one, my goal is to meet them where they’re at and make sure that they feel supported, heard and validated,” Nunez said.

In an effort to curb sexual assault and sexual harassment rates, Title IX requires all BYU employees to take a sexual harassment training course. The course helps employees recognize and respond to sexual harassment, but Rasmussen said plans to mandate the training for all students are now in motion.

“If we could educate and train everyone so well that we no longer had a job, that’d be great. That’s the ultimate goal,” Rasmussen said.

Students can stay up to date about more activities from the BYU’s Women of Color club by following their Instagram.

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