Groups want action on assaults


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University of Iowa officials would like to establish two new positions to increase efforts to provide sexual-assault victims with resources and educate students on how to prevent these assaults from happening.

“The context has sort of changed,” said Ben Gillig, the president of the Executive Council of Graduate and Professional Students. “From the judgment of the student government as the representatives of the student body, it’s time we take steps on the prevention side, as well as go alongside and complement a lot of the good work on victims’ support that the university has been engaged in.”

As the university faces its eighth sexual-assault report of the academic year, members of UI Student Government and the Executive Council plan to vote at a meeting tonight in support of a new resolution to recommend that UI officials to hire two new full-time violence-prevention coordinators.

Gillig said the new coordinators’ salary could be up to roughly $50,000 each, but that is still up for discussion.

Currently, the university only has one half-time employee, Meagan Schorr, who works with the Women Resource and Action Center to provide students with bystander intervention training and other violence prevention related to sexual assaults.

“Having only one violence-prevention coordinator working half-time really limits what I can do,” Schorr said. “It limits the number of workshops and presentations and different opportunities to build relationships with the community.”

Since she began working for the university in June 2013, Schorr, in collaboration of other members of UI Student Health and Rape Victim Advocacy Program, has provided bystander-intervention workshops for all incoming freshmen, athletics teams, and campus residential assistants on ways they can safely recognize a dangerous situation and realistic ways to intervene. 

“This is a shared responsibility,” UISG President Katherine Valde said. “It’s not just related to perpetrator or victim. All of us can play a larger part in how we respond and making sure we’re looking out for our friends when we’re out, making sure if we’re in a dorm and see something that we understand the definition of consent.”

During the fiscal 2013, RVAP received 306 rape-related crisis calls. Of those, 45 were reportedly connected with the UI.

The UISG, Executive Council, WRAC, and RVAP want the new coordinators to address and discredit common “rape culture” myths such as blaming the victims and the notion that “boys will be boys.”

“There isn’t a lot of focus on the perpetrators,” said Morgan Sedlacek, rural youth education volunteer coordinator for RVAP. “I’m glad these issues are coming to light so people will step up and hold offenders more accountable.”

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