Students discuss sexual assault at summit

BY CELINA CARR | APRIL 23, 2015 5:00 AM

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Applause, shouts, and laughter could be heard through the cracks of the IMU Second-Floor Ballroom on Wednesday. However, there was no concert or comedy show; the event that took place covered a serious topic of discussion — sexual assault. 

Roughly 284 people, including community members, faculty, and students registered for the event It’s On Us: Sexual Violence Education Summit.

Many University of Iowa organizations and community activists including the Women’s Resource Action Center, Rape Victim Advocacy Program, and President’s Advisory Committee on Sexual Misconduct sponsored the event.

“I really like the idea of the summit, because it’s bringing together both campus community, and community leaders with military leaders and cadets,” said Kira Pasquesi, the vice president of the Student Advisory Committee on Sexual Misconduct. “So it’s bridging some communities that have some shared issues of concern.”

The It’s On Us summit was a free, public, two-part event held to educate the UI and Iowa City community about sexual-violence prevention. 

It’s On Us is a national campaign launched by President Obama to end sexual assaults on college campuses nationwide.  The UI summit emphasized the importance of bystander intervention and response to sexual-assault victims.

After UI President Sally Mason implemented her Six-Point Plan to combat sexual assault, a resulting action was to improve campus response to sexual assaults by adding three full-time violence prevention education specialists. 

Susan Junis, the RVAP university prevention education coordinator and one of these three specialists who attended the summit, said progress can be seen in the increase number of sexual-misconduct reports on campus.

“When there’s more prevention and awareness happening in a community, what we see is that reports actually increase because people are more aware of the issue,” Junis said.  “Those assaults were all happening before, it’s just that people didn’t feel safe or comfortable enough to come forward about them.”

The first part of the It’s On Us summit included a campaign public service announcement and two keynote speakers — U.S. First Army’s Maj. Gen. Paul Benenati and Laci Green, a MTV and YouTube personality. 

Benenati, a guest of the UI Army ROTC who helped host the event, spoke about preventing sexual assaults in the U.S. military. Green’s speech centered on victim blaming present in rape culture and highlighted real life sexual assault case examples.

“Rape, sexual assault — this is a decision that someone makes to violate someone. A decision that’s often condoned by society,” Green said during her speech to audience members.

UI junior Grace Jimenez, the risk manager of the Pan-Hellenic Council, wants the new UI president to pay more attention to sexual-assault prevention.

“It’s something that has gone brushed under the rug at many other institutions, and this is the time,” she said. “It’s crucial for us to make sure we get people in power here who don’t keep perpetuating that.”

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