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Breaking the silence UTRGV to host events for Sexual Assualt Awareness Month

Photo Illustration by Mario Gonzalez/The Rider
Photo Illustration by Mario Gonzalez/The Rider

Jesus Sanchez

About four-fifths of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim and 47 percent of rapists are a friend or acquaintance, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (rainn.org).

RAINN states that every 107 seconds, another sexual assault occurs and 68 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police. Ninety-eight percent of rapists will never spend a day in jail.

Physics senior Andrea Téllez said she encourages students to speak with a person they trust when it comes to sexual assault incidents.

“Well, I think [the students] should have more information about [sexual assault awareness] because you never know,” Téllez said. “You just know when you are in the problem.”

She said the university should host more events that promote sexual assault awareness and provide information for the campus community of the steps to take to prevent it.

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Office of Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention (OVAVP) will partner with several organizations on campus to host a campaign called Turn Texas Teal. OVAVP will set up tables Wednesday in Brownsville and Thursday in Edinburg for students to take a pledge to bring awareness on issues of sexual violence.

The tables will be set up again April 19 and 28 in Edinburg and April 21 and 27 in Brownsville.

James Loya, assistant chief of police, told The Rider the University Police department will host a free Rape Aggression Defense System training today, April 18 and 25 at the Edinburg police department and May 4, 12 and 19 at Brownsville police department. The course is exclusively for women and is open to faculty, staff and students.

“In this training, we’ll have people dressed in RedMan suits,” Loya said. “It’s a padded suit, kind of looks like a transformer. … The people and the trainees in the class will go full hands-on striking, trying to get out of those types of situations.”

To register, visit utrgv.edu/training. Registration will remain open until the 18 slots are filled. For more information, call 665-7151.

On April 27, OVAVP and the UTRGV Counseling Center in Brownsville will participate in Denim Day. Denim Day is an event in which people are encouraged to wear jeans as a visible means of protest against the misconceptions that surround sexual assault, according to denimdayinfo.org.

Sexual assault is defined by Texas Penal Code section 22.011 as intentionally or knowingly causing the sexual organ of another person, without that person’s consent, to contact or penetrate the mouth, anus or sexual organ of another person, including the actor.

Yvette Castro, a victim services specialist at UTRGV, said she is available to help anyone seeking help, including the outside community.

“I provide direct services to victims that come into the campus police department,” Castro said. “I work along with the investigator either here on campus or I work with our other agencies, you know, throughout the Valley to see how we can help the victim. … I am employed with the police department. I am able to get direct services from the police department to the victims to give them advocacy.”

Castro will also be an instructor in the RAD System trainings.

Douglas Stoves, associate dean of Student Rights and Responsibilities, said the university provides multiple services for students, faculty and staff seeking help.

“We have a victim’s advocacy, which is a confidential source on campus that can work with victims and help them navigate both internal and external resources,” Stoves said. “We have, of course, Student Health Services, we have University Police, we have counseling and [students] have my office in the Dean of Students office. … Our primary concern is the students, so that’s going to be our focus.”

He said the university is already taking initiatives to address and prevent sexual harassment, assault and violence.

“All new transfer and graduate students are required to go through CampusClarity,” Stoves said. “That’s an online module that talks about not only alcohol but it talks about sexual assault and defines it. It also … gives various scenarios and, basically, educates students not only if they see it to report it but also if it happens to them what they should do.”

Students, faculty and staff are able to report any sexual misconduct incident through the Vaquero Care Report It Form, which is available at utrgv.edu/reportit.

The campus community is encouraged to consult with Student Rights and Responsibilities staff to discuss the options available to the student in filing a report.

History freshman Carlos Aguirre said the university should provide information sessions discussing the punishments for sexual assault.

“I think there should be programs to let the people know the consequences of [sexual assault],” Aguirre said. “I think everybody should be informed. … Maybe create student groups or maybe have some classes. If it was me, I would recommend to someone to report it or let someone know. It’s not good to just keep it in.”

Disciplinary actions against faculty and staff may include, but are not limited to, written reprimands, the imposition of conditions, reassignment, suspension and dismissal. Student disciplinary actions may include, but are not limited to, probation, suspension or expulsion, according to UTRGV’s Sexual Harassment and Sexual Misconduct policy.

The UTRGV Sexual Harassment and Sexual Misconduct policy is available at utrgv.edu/hop.

“One of the things we would like to remind everybody is to be aware of your surroundings,” Loya said. “I understand people want to have a good time and be out there but, you know, be cautious. Be cautious of what you’re doing and report anything suspicious. If you see something, say something. … We rather go to 100 calls that turn out to be nothing than not to have responded at all.”

To report an incident, call 665-5171 in Edinburg or 882-8232 in Brownsville.

“Something very important to remember is that you are not alone,” Téllez said. “The university can help you in anything.”

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