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JJ: Do you have an opinion on why [sexual violence] is so [prevalent] on college campuses across the country, maybe even the world? BJ: Wow, that's a great question! First, let me clarify, if even one student on this campus or any other campus has suffered from sexual violence, it is a major problem and needs to be treated as such. I think there’s a prevalence because a lot of these issues, I guess are partially because this isn't the first time that a lot [of] the students have dealt with sexual harassment [or] misconduct. A lot of the students are coming from homes where they've seen some sort of intimate partner violence. They've experienced some type of domestic violence; some type of abuse, whether from their own parents, uncles, aunts, family members. So, it's not necessarily starting on college campuses, it's starting in middle school when students are first becoming sexually active. I think that it's a very taboo subject; a lot of parents don't want to talk to their children about what sexual assault is. The only conversation that they have as children [is] "what is good touch versus bad touch?" But after we get past that, what is consent? Or coercion when it comes to having sex? What is a healthy relationship? I think that a lot of the students may not even know that they are committing sexual assault or [are] victims of sexual assault. Some may say, "oh well she was drunk. I was drunk. So, you know it was cool. I thought everything was okay. And...” I think the issue is that we are waiting until these kids are in college to begin discussing what sexual assault is. I think we're waiting until a problem has arisen and we're being very reactive instead of proactive. I think this conversation about sexual assault and rape and all of these other forms of violence, need to be had prior to college. And I think that's why it looks like there's such an influx when really this type of abuse has been going on far before the students actually stepped on to a college campus. JJ: Do students come forward to report sexual misconduct? If not, why do you think that is? BJ: Unfortunately, a lot of students do not report … for a number of reasons. For a lot the students experiencing sexual assault, the perpetrator is someone that they know. They don't want [to] take a chance on ruining this person's academic career, [and] their social life. They don’t want to be that person to ruin the other person's life. They are also not sure that they will [be] believed. … [Many] of our students [at Bowie State] are students who come from homes where they have experienced a number of trauma, and they're not really sure how to deal with it. So when it occurs again on a college campus, they don't really know what to do. The highest reports that we get is of stalking, and we know that there is more sexual assault occurring, but most students just report stalking.
JJ: Do you have any advice for any student or students that may be a victim of sexual misconduct on your campus, or any other campus? BJ: For my campus specifically, I would say to any student that [has] ever been a victim or
has a friend that's been a victim, to first reach out to the victim advocate on campus, she is a confidential employee. She can walk you through the entire recording process, or if you don’t choose to report, she's someone that can just be a listening ear. If you don't want to reach out to the victim advocate, you are free to reach out to myself, the program coordinator. I will refer you to direct services that can put you in the right direction. If you don't want to reach out to me, you can reach out to the Title IX office. If you don't want to reach out to the Title IX office, you are free to reach out to law enforcement. They can also direct you to the reporting process, whether it's just on campus if you want to leave the process there, or if you want to take it to your city or even as far as your state. We have an array of resources that you can use if you've ever been a victim.
JJ: I think a major part of the [sexual assault], rape culture on campuses is a lack of knowledge. Are there programs offered to students that inform them on consent, drinking responsibly, safe sex, or any of those things? BJ: … A lot of times, many universities offer programs that are geared towards the prevention of sexual assault from the victim's side, so we tell young women [or maybe in the past we've told young women] not to dress this way, or watch your drink when you’re at the party, or stay in a group, or don't walk outside at night. But a lot of times there aren't many programs telling men how to avoid being victims of sexual assault or how to avoid being perpetrators of sexual assault. So our biggest goal is to definitely engage the male community on campus, and kind of make it easy for them to come out, and asses their own beliefs. We focus on creating safe spaces where they are able to discuss what healthy masculinity is versus toxic masculinity. We do our best to remove those [stereotypes] that they have about what a man should be. Our goal is to create an overall, comprehensive plan that will reach every person in the student body, not just women but also men. We do have a lot of programs geared toward that specific aspect. JJ: Are there any last words you'd like to leave [our readers]? BJ: -pause- For one, if you have been a victim of sexual assault, or any type of sexual violence, the most important thing for you to know is that it was not your fault. [Don’t] not to blame yourself; [Don’t] say " I should have done [this]" [even if] somebody else tells you, "oh you could have ran" or "you could have screamed." There is no reason that any type of sexual violence is ever warranted on any individual, so that's the number one thing that I want any victim/survivor to know. It was not your fault!
JaLynn Johnson: Do you believe that [Sexual Violence] is a problem on our campus? Michelle Reynolds: It's a problem on all college campuses, not just our campus. I think the age most women are sexually assaulted between 18 and 24. And that makes college campuses a hot bed, especially for freshmen and during the months of September, October and November. Because people prey on the new coming students, there are also a bunch of parties with a bunch of drinking. So, for all college campuses it's a problem, I think that's why they come up with so many laws to try and fix it. I know, I went to college (dramatic sigh) in 1986 was my first year and it was a problem back then, but people just weren't held accountable. I could remember there would be lots of parties, and girls would come, and people would get them drunk and take advantage of them. Back then there was nothing in place to protect people and no one said anything. Whereas now, if that happens, there are certain laws in place, [where] you can't get someone intoxicated and have sex with them, [because] they consider that sexual assault. But back in the day, it was done regularly, and no one said anything. JJ: You said that age is a factor, since between 18-24 is when [women are] most at risk, drinking also plays a factor and the influx of new students, but do you think there are other reasons why sexual assault may be so prevalent across college campuses? MR: … I think students come [to college] with a certain sense of safety that may not be there. Like most people going to a party, don't think someone's going to invite them to a party to get them drunk and have sex with them. People are young. And sometimes guys may not know that they're doing something wrong. I think a lot of male students that I talk to are unclear about consent? Have you seen the show about the Suicide on Netflix? JJ: Thirteen Reasons Why? MR: Yes, she witnessed a rape and then was raped. In the pool scene when she’s being raped, she didn't say anything but it was clear that she didn't want it, based on her facial expressions. Some people freeze up. And then [people] start blaming the victim, "why weren't they screaming," "why weren't they fighting?" But everybody's different, some people scream and fight and some people are frozen with fear. So just because they’re just lying there doesn't mean [they] want it, they could just be scared and in shock. That's another reason people don't report. But just because you aren't screaming, doesn't mean... JJ: You want to be there. MR: Exactly! JJ: Are there any [programs] that inform them of consent, drinking responsibly? MR: …We do consent workshops like in the Residence Halls, with the athletes, or special populations if someone requests us to come and do a workshop on consent. We also do Denim Day every year, which is to raise awareness of sexual assault and that's when we have the different organizations [set-up information tables] on campus that provide students with information about sexual assault. JJ: Many men believe it's completely normal to grab a girl's butt, or to send pictures of their penis without asking, So, [with this publication] I wanted to create something that not only informs both men and women but also includes sexual assault and shows them they aren't suffering alone.
MR: There's some people that never ever tell anybody. I've had students come in, and it's been like 2 years. Because like you see in the media, if you tell someone you're a liar. They just don't believe you. People say, "they're lying" "why would that person do this" or "why would this person do that". Like if the woman [is] possibly unattractive and it's a popular, handsome man, people say "why would he want her." But it's not about looks or attraction, it's about control and power. Then no man wants to say, he was raped by another man. It's a lot of people that have been sexually assaulted, touched inappropriately or experienced something in their lifetime, but it's too hard to say it. Then when [they] see stuff on TV, it makes it even harder. Like with the gymnasts, I heard someone say, "they wanted it," "they just wanted to advance their careers," or "they were scared they weren't going to make it to the Olympics." Like they were little girls, all these women are lying? JJ: [With all the claims of sexual assault in the media,] I've noticed there's a lot of women that shame other women for coming forward. Which has been really surprising for me. MR: Women can be worse than the men. They say, "She wanted it," or the girls were "hot." It doesn't matter what you wear, no one should sexually assault you. But a lot of females are very hard on other females. Just because you go to someone's house, doesn't mean you want to get raped. Just because you kiss someone, doesn't mean [you] want to get raped. JJ: [What are] the different services that are offered to sexual assault victims through your office? MR: As a counseling center on a college campus, we provide general counseling. We see people, 4 to 6 sessions ... [and] do very basic, general counseling and if a student needs a specialist or if they need medication, or anything along those lines, we refer them out. So, for sexual assault victims we refer them to Turn Around, Inc., which is an organization located in Baltimore County and Baltimore City. And it provides group counselling and counseling services for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, childhood sexual assault, and things of that nature. JJ: Is the counseling center and [its] employees of the counseling center considered confidential or responsible employees? How does that impact reporting process? MR: No, the counseling center and the health center are the only two offices on campus that are confidential. So we are not responsible but everyone else on campus is a responsible employee. If a student comes to them and mentions that they have been sexually assaulted, they are required by law to report it to the Title IX Coordinator. So the only place they can go and confidentially report is the counseling center or if they went to the health center for an exam or something. JJ: Do you have any other advice for any student that has been a victim of sexual violence? MR: Report it. When they come in for counseling, we make them aware of all their rights and gently encourage the, to report it. Some people do it and some people just don't want to go through it. If [youâ€™re] not ok with reporting it, at least seek counseling, because counseling helps. I'll see people that were sexually assaulted as children by family members, and they think they're ok with it. But by the time they get to college it starts to bother them, they realize they're not ok and they start unraveling or having other issues that stem back. So even if you don't want to report it, seek counseling or medical assistance if you don't want to go through the legal route.
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