In recognition of sexual assault awareness month, the Health and Wellness Center has launched the “Dear Survivor” project, an initiative where students can write open letters to victims of sexual assault, offering themselves as an ally to the victim.
The project is a spinoff of national initiatives that the wellness center “tailored to the Tech campus.” Letters are placed around campus with contact information to Public Safety, the wellness center, Tech’s Title XI coordinator, as well as the National Sexual Assault Hotline.
“The main purpose behind it is to let survivors on our campus know that other students support them and they’re not alone,” said Stacy Galbo, a graduate assistant of student wellness outreach. “A lot of the letters we have aren’t just from allies; they’re from other survivors.”
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center in 2015 reported that two-thirds of college students “experience sexual harassment, and less than 10 percent of these students tell a college or university employee.”
The New York Times also reported in 2015 that in four years of college, “more than one-fourth of undergraduate women at a large group of leading universities said they had been sexually assaulted.” The New York Times referenced the “Report on the AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct,” prepared by the Associate of American Universities. The study reported 27.2 percent of female college seniors reported experiencing some form of unwanted sexual contact since they entered college.
At Tech, Galbo said the 20 to 25 percent national average is reflected, but on a smaller scale.
For her graduate research, Galbo surveyed 522 Tech students about sexual assault and intimate partner violence; fifty nine of her respondents reported victimization of some kind. Forty one of the fifty nine were sexual assault victims at Tech.
Sexual assault also extends into Galbo’s personal life.
“More than half of the women I know have been victimized in some way.”
The Tech 2015 Security Acts book outlines sexual assault as, “any sexual act which violated the criminal laws of the state of Arkansas or the laws of the United States.” This includes non-consensual intercourse, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.
However, women aren’t the only ones subject to sexual assault.
“From what we know, it is primarily males perpetrating violence against females, but that’s not the only scenario,” Galbo said. “People in the LGBT community experience this as well.”
Galbo went on to say men are also subject to sexual assault from women, and despite disbelief, a man can in fact get raped by a woman.
Sexual assault can happen in any relationship, Galbo said.
In the future, Galbo said she hopes those who come to Tech after her continue to create an atmosphere on campus comfortable enough for sexual assault victims to come forward. Through the “Dear Survivor” project, Galbo has had what the wellness center is calling “peer health educators” aid her in the project.
“I put up some of the ‘Dear Survivor’ letters on bulletin boards around campus so that anyone who is going through the experience of dealing with sexual assault can get the words of encouragement, acknowledgement and understanding that they need and so rarely receive,” said Jalon Falconer, a senior psychology and creative writing major from Waldron. Falconer’s said his desire to help people keeps him committed to this project.
Anyone who was sexually assaulted, or thinks they were sexually assaulted, are encouraged to contact the Health and Wellness Center at 479-968-0329, Public Safety at 479-968-0222, the Title XI coordinator at 479-498-6020 and the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4619.