UI forum weighs in against rape

BY DANIEL SEIDL | APRIL 14, 2014 5:00 AM

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Joy Beadleston vividly remembers her sexual assault from years ago, and it still weighs heavily on her mind.

“It tears your life to pieces,” she said. “And it’s so hard and traumatic to fight your way back and succeed.”

Beadleston was led to a neighbor’s door but managed to run away from the perpetrator after he exposed himself to her. He proceeded to chase her, but she was able to get away. For Beadleston, speaking out is the only way to go on.

“I’m a survivor,” she said. “I do want to say that, to the survivors in this room, that our lives begin and end the day we become silent.”

Beadleston is far from the only woman to have suffered from sexual assault. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in five women will experience sexual assault in their lives. Additionally, 19 percent of undergraduate women experienced attempted or completed sexual assault while in college.

“This is only the tip of the iceberg,” said Karla Miller, the executive director of the Rape Victim Advocacy Program. “We know that there are many more, and what we also know is many more are speaking up.”

Beadleston spoke up at a community forum on sexual assault hosted by the University of Iowa Department of Communication Studies on April 12. Communication is integral in preventing sexual assault, said Laurie Haag, a program developer for the Women’s Resource and Action Center.

“Everybody’s voices are not always heard,” she said. “We encourage people to step in, speak up.”

UI officials have undergone criticism this year following an uptick in the number of reports of sexual assault on campus. Eleven sexual assaults have been reported during the 2013-14 academic year. Recently, the UI expelled one student for sexual misconduct — the first in recent years.

Georgina Dodge, the UI chief diversity officer and associate vice president, said educating the public on the issue of sexual assault is an important step in solving the problem.

“This is a societal problem,” she said. “It truly takes an entire community to get any kind of traction happening.”

An important step in preventing rape is bringing men into the conversation, said Hieu Pham, a multilingual advocate and outreach coordinator with Monsoon United Asian Women of Iowa.

“I think bringing men to the table is really important in this work,” she said. “We need men and males to feel like it’s their problem as well.”

Before they can do anything, Dodge said, information needs to be gathered.

“Until we hear what’s needed, until we hear what’s not working, we can’t do anything about it,” she said.

Unfortunately, said Anne Ventullo, a Radicals Organizing Against Rape activist, there is a lack of information relating to sexual assault.

“It doesn’t seem like we have very good statistics or very good information,” she said. “We’re working on getting as much information as we can.”

One thing it is important to remember in the fight against sexual assault is to never blame the victim, said RVAP education coordinator Mary Perdomo.

“It’s [never] the victims’ fault,” she said. “There is nothing in their power to stop the perpetrators.”

The focus should be on preventing perpetrators from attacking, Ventulo said.

“It’s not ‘don’t get raped,’ ” she said. “It’s ‘don’t rape.’ ”

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