Combatting sexual assault on campus

An uttered slur, an inappropriate touch or a flirtation taken too far. It can happen to anyone, anywhere.

Every 21 hours there is a rape on an American college campus, according to a National College Health Risk Behavior Survey.

Male or female, it is blind to gender.

In a study of undergraduate women, 19 percent experienced attempted or completed sexual assault since entering college, according to a study conducted by the Journal of American College Health.

Two ASU students chose the prevention of sexual assault as the issue they platformed at Harvard’s Institute of Politics for “Bipartisan Advocacy: Finding Common Ground” in September.

Public service and public policy junior Emily Barney and English linguistics junior Lauren Bacon went to the conference representing ASU.

The conference was part of a national effort to foster youth political engagement.

“ASU needs to encourage all students motivated to make a difference in the world to identify and promote solutions to the most challenging problems,” says Jonathan Koppell, dean of the College of Public Programs at Arizona State University.

More than four dozen students went through a weekend of poignant political guest speakers and workshopped ways to spread awareness for their chosen topic across their respective campuses.

Photo by Luu Nguyen Emily Barney seeks to help raise awareness of sexual assault prevention on campus. Photo by Luu Nguyen

"We felt it was an important topic for students to be aware of," Barney says. "We want to focus on sexual assault prevention and response and what to do if it happens."

"We want to let students know, should something happen, what you should do, what police you should call, how to respond and what counseling services and social support are available," Barney says.

During the topic issue break-out sessions at the conference, Barney and Bacon joined students from Harvard College, University of Southern California, Louisiana State University, Vanderbilt University and others to share each college’s opportunities and methods to better prevent and respond to sexual violence.

Photo by Heather Beshears, Marketing Director for the College of Public Programs. Lauren Bacon also seeks to campaign sexual assault prevention on campus. Photo by Heather Beshears, Marketing Director for the College of Public Programs.

"With an atmosphere that was wholly conducive to collaboration, it was beautiful to witness representatives of universities nationwide coming together to combat an array of issues, sharing resources, ideas, and, ultimately, passions," Bacon says. "It was very much a microcosm of how change is being enacted at higher levels through both unity and collective ideation... it's the stuff of magic, really."

Barney and Bacon are focusing their campaign on spreading awareness through a social media campaign and engaging with clubs on campus that already exist such as Man Up, Wow Factor, I Always Get Consent and Changemaker Central to create a greater voice for anti-violence.

"I think we'll use Facebook as our platform for our social media campaign," Barney says. "It will be easier to have videos and text and still get it out to a wide audience."

Bacon is the vice director of Changemaker Central and says the organization will be collaborating in some way throughout the year.

"Lauren has much more experience planning events, I'm more about public policy," Barney says. "I would love to do a panel event incorporating experts in the criminal justice, political and the domestic violence fields to speak about what we can do as a campus to prevent sexual assault."

"I really want to get the campus involved and spread awareness," Barney says.

"As modeled by the participants of the conference, we will be adopting the emphasis that was placed on unity, as we will work tirelessly with the myriad of student organizations that are already doing such brilliant work to shift the culture of sexual violence at ASU," Bacon says.

Barney and Bacon are in charge of their initiative until May and next year two different students will choose a different topic to focus on.

"I'll definitely be involved with the sexual assault prevention and response initiative even after May," Barney says. "It's something I feel really needs to be addressed on our campus."

Reach the reporter at or via Twitter @andangelo15

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