Sexual assault may seem like a historically taboo topic, but not for Dixie State University administrators who are intent on making a difference.
As part of Utah Sexual Assault Awareness Month, new training for faculty members on how to deal with sexual assault is being mandated. Organizations like the Dove Center are also coming to campus and working with the Women’s Resource Center to help sexual assault victims find help.
According to a study by The Red Flag Campaign in which 6,000 students at 32 U.S. college campuses were surveyed, 1 in 4 women had been victims of rape or attempted rape, but only 5 percent of the cases had been reported to the police.
Elizabeth Bluhm is the sexual assault advocacy coordinator at the Dove Center and provides personal support for sexual assault victims each Wednesday afternoon in the WRC. The Dove Center is a local nonprofit organization dedicated to providing advocacy services for assault victims in the community.
“There is so much misunderstanding about sexual assault,” Bluhm said. “Our goals are just to spread awareness and help people really understand what victims have to deal with. Without talking about it, it won’t ever end.”
Six DSU students have taken training to be volunteers on the newly formed hospital advocacy team for assault victims. When assault victims report to the emergency room, there is often a 4 to 6-hour long exam they are subjected to. A member of the hospital advocacy team stays by the victim’s side during the entire process. The member’s role is to give the victim emotional support while ensuring the victim’s rights are being honored.
There have been six instances so far this semester where a member of the hospital advocacy team was called in to support a victim in the ER, with half of them being sexual assault cases, Bluhm said.
“The majority of sexual assault victims don’t report,” Bluhm said. “We need to dispel the fear victims have to speak out by never blaming them and letting them know there’s hope.”
New trainings for faculty members are teaching them to be mandatory reporters of sexual assault when they hear about it. A campus sexual violence prevention training for employees and students will start May 18, 1 p.m. in the South Administration Building.
“We don’t want to be reactive, but proactive to sexual assault with these trainings,” DSU President Biff Williams said. “Students and faculty members need to be educated and be made aware of sexual assault.”
Williams said there is still a long way to go until DSU is completely safe, but by working with the Dove Center and increasing sexual assault awareness trainings, it is moving in the right direction.