“Respect Rolls Here”: UA Launches Task Force on Sexual Assault and Interpersonal Violence

The University of Alabama’s Student Life Division has launched a Sexual Assault and Interpersonal Violence Task Force to strengthen a healthy campus culture that ensures respect for others.

The task force launched its first initiative, the #RespectRollsHere campaign, which aims to raise awareness of resources on sexual assault on and off campus.

Tut Wilson, chair of the task force and executive director of the Office of Fellowship and Sorority Life, said launching the task force in October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, was a priority. The working group has met once so far and plans to meet at least every two months in the future.

Wilson said the task force is the brainchild of vice president of student life, Myron Pope. The members of the working group come from different sectors of the campus.

“For me, it’s personal,” Wilson said. “I don’t pretend to be the expert. I’m just a lawyer.

The working group will combine the efforts of the Student Government Association, the Women and Gender Resource Center and the Counseling Center.

The SGA is hosting It’s On Us, an annual sexual assault prevention awareness week, starting October 11.

The task force recommends the Tuscaloosa SAFE Center and Turning Point as community resources for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

Organizations like Not On My Campus, Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault, the University’s four Greek councils, and the WGRC Student Ambassadors are some of the student groups partnering with the task force.

“We have a unique perspective as students, but the administration is the one that can actually implement the change and adopt programs to stop it,” said Colby Lewis, UA MARS director of programming. “I think it’s important for us to work together because it offers a more direct path to change.

Wilson said the task force will measure its impact quantitatively through reports from the Title IX office and the Women and Gender Resource Center.

“We recognize that there is a stigma around reporting issues,” Wilson said. “An increase in reporting may actually be a positive sign, as we will be able to discipline more appropriately.”

There were 37 charges of rape and 2 charges of domestic violence reported in the most recent UA Campus Safety and Fire Safety Report.

A die main contributors to the sexual assault on campus is alcohol abuse. Wilson said the task force hopes to resolve this issue through an ongoing witness intervention program.

“Our Capstone Creed is about respect, and that’s the goal of our campaign,” she said. “It’s simple. We really hope this translates beyond sexual assault into all aspects of campus life.”

RAINN reports that 13% of all college students in the United States are sexually assaulted or raped. Students are at a higher risk of being sexually assaulted in their first few months on campus. Over 50% of sexual assaults occur in the fall semester, with transfer students being the most vulnerable.

Sexual assaults on college campuses sparked protests in seven states, including Alabama.

“UA has done a number of benchmarking studies, and we’re actually ahead of the curve compared to a lot of peers,” Wilson said. “That doesn’t mean our campus is perfect, but I’m proud of the resources our campus partners have already put in place. “

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