CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - One in six women are victims, while one in 33 men have reportedly been victims of sexual violence according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). Coastal Carolina University is addressing the topic during awareness week.
In 2013, 28 cases of sexual violence were reported on campus. Five of those were reported as forcible sex offenses in the residence halls. Included this year in that count are reports of domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. All are now considered part of sexual violence according to new federal Title IX guidelines.
The university says this week is so important because the more people are aware, the more victims will feel empowered to report abuse, and the more bystanders will feel empowered to intervene.
This week, CCU leaders want to drive home the fact that sexual violence is never acceptable, and no one deserves to be a victim.
"Be aware as a bystander of when you can intervene with your friend," says Debbie Conner, the Vice President of CCU Student Affairs. "At what points does consent need to happen. We're making sure that students are better prepared, and that they understand what the consequences of some of their decisions could be."
Many students on campus told WMBF News that they feel confident in how the administration is taking charge, combating sexual violence, and emphasizing education. Students also said they feel well informed on how to report any violence and abuse as either a victim or a bystander because of the new Haven class. It is now a requirement of incoming freshman and goes over what is considered sexual violence, how to avoid it, how to report it and how to heal.
Another topic that CCU leaders are trying to address during this awareness week is that language that is used in regards to sexual violence. Students are taught that "no" means "no," the only acceptable "yes" is a sober one, and silence does not give consent. CCU is also working to bring attention to the vulgar language that is common - everyday slang. Conner also says that the more they talk about sexual violence, the more students and the community will realize how their speech belittles victims and condones attackers.
"It's really hard when you're battling the music that people are listening to, what you're used to seeing on television, where there's a lot of victim blaming going on. So a lot of our conversation has to do with really empowering people to understand that there is no one ever who should be a victim of sexual violence," says Conner.
There will be a “Take Back the Night” candlelight vigil Tuesday at 6 p.m. starting from Blanton Park. Victims of sexual violence will be able to share their stories and fellow classmates and staff can show their support.