UO Coalition to End Sexual Violence now official

University of Oregon Women and Gender Studies Professor Carol Stabile gets a certain look in her eyes when she talks about sexual assault on campus. Behind her playful cat-eye glasses, her eyes take on a troubled stare as she recalls the people — weighed down by traumatic experiences — who came to her for help. @@name [email protected]@

When Stabile thinks students is about to disclose an incident, she stops them, saying: “You know I’m a mandated reporter, right?”

Some faculty feel that more could be done than just following the administrative rules that require reporting sexual discrimination. Stabile quoted a colleague saying: “How many times can you sit in a room with a student and all you can do is push a box of tissues across a table?”

To do more to combat the prevalence of sexual assault, Stabile and other UO faculty, staff and students formed an independent coalition. The UO Coalition to End Sexual Violence announced its inception on Feb. 11.

Jennifer Freyd, a UO psychology professor and coalition member, says an increased national awareness of campus assaults has had an influence on the coalition’s formation. @@name [email protected]@

“The time is ripe to do something about it,” Freyd said. “We’ve got the research and we’ve got the awareness.”

Freyd’s interest in the issue stems from personal research and the stories she’s heard over the 26 years she has held her position. Freyd’s recent studies put numbers and stats in a local context.

“Our best guess about sexual assault here at UO is (that the rates are) at least as high as what’s been found nationally,” Freyd said. “My sense is that the magnitude of the problem is so much greater than the resources allocated assume.”

The coalition seeks greater transparency of the UO’s statistics on sexual violence and improvement of the reporting process in hopes of making the campus community more supportive of survivors. The coalition plans to rely on research and examine the best practices to prevent assault by investigating how other institutions address the issue.

Freyd believes that institutions will benefit from being publicly honest and making improvements over the long run. “I want Oregon to be — 10 years from now — perceived as a leader in this area and a place that students come to because it is safe and healthy,” Freyd said.

Lisbet Rivas, a junior and member of the ASUO Women’s Center, said this new group and its research could help raise awareness, but since it’s still in its inaugural phases she can’t be entirely sure.

“If it goes well… it could be a great thing,”  Rivas said. “But it could also be harmful — it depends on who’s running it — if they have facts that aren’t correct.”

The coalition is on Twitter @UOCoalition.

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