A free speech alley, panel discussion and information tables will all be part of the Gender Comm Expo to be hosted on the Brownsville campus from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday.
“The purpose of the event is to promote the awareness, down here in the Valley, of sexual assault,” said Rebeca Rodriguez, a communication junior in John Cook’s Gender Communication class who is coordinating the event. “Because, recently, it’s been growing; there’s an increase.”
One in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted on a college campus, and more than 90 percent of victims don’t report it, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center website, www.nsvrc.org.
The expo will begin with a free speech alley from 11 a.m. where students will voice their opinions about the prevention of domestic violence.
A panel discussion on sexual assault at 11:45 a.m. in Salón Cassia will feature Laura Dominguez, a sexual assault nurse examiner from Valley Baptist Medical Center; Raul Munguia, UTRGV police chief; Luis Saenz, Cameron County district attorney; Cynthia Jones, director of the UTRGV Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention Office; and, Alicia Morley, Title IX coordinator and director of the Office of Institutional Equality.
“We’ll be creating questions, as a class, on what is the next step if somebody goes through sexual assault,” Rodriguez said.
The panelists will inform attendees on the process of reporting an assault and what they can do if they know somebody that is going through physical abuse, she added.
Several departments, including Counseling and Student Rights and Responsibilities, will distribute information on sexual assault awareness and prevention.
Additionally, UTRGV and 12 other UT System campuses will take part in a campus climate survey titled The Campus Safety Project. A research team from the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault at the University of Texas at Austin will coordinate the survey with a group of UTRGV administrators, faculty, staff and students, according to a Nov. 17 email to students from Kristin Croyle, UTRGV’s vice president for Student Success.
The survey will poll randomly selected students on topics related to intimate and interpersonal violence, such as sexual assault, dating violence, sexual harassment and stalking.
Croyle sent an email Nov. 17 about the 20-to-30-minute survey. The deadline to respond to the survey is Dec. 16. Those who complete the survey will have the chance to enter a drawing for one of six iPad minis and one of 1,000 T-shirts.
“It’s hard to be able to know exactly the best way to support our students unless we know how things are right now,” Croyle said. “We know, for example, that students who, anybody, people who are assaulted, some choose to bring that forward to authorities and some choose not to. So, in a survey like this, we are hoping to get a better sense of how intensive our students’ experience is so we can better cram our power toward education programs to support students who’ve been victimized and how to make the campus safer in general. ”
UTRGV is also part of the It’s On Us campaign that was started by President Barack Obama in April 2014.
The campaign seeks to engage college students and other members of campus communities in preventing sexual assault, according to the website of the Office of the President.
“Basically, our goal is to make sure that students become aware that they can take part in preventing sexual violence,” said David Mariscal, the associate director for Students Rights and Responsibilities. “There’s many things students can do to prevent sexual violence, like taking care of themselves and their friends.”