UR Security and campus officials gathered in Hoyt Auditorium on Wednesday to discuss campus safety and prevention of violence with students as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Week. Director of Campus Security Walter Mauldin and University Intercessor Kathy Sweetland presented the Town Hall meeting. Topics discussed included sexual assault, the new University response system and precautions students are encouraged to take to remain safe.

“The objective is to promote awareness about sexual assault and to break the ice on the issue,” Women’s Caucus Community Outreach Coordinator and junior Kara Zabelny said. Several undergraduate students participated in an open forum discussion after panelists introduced themselves and presented their respective roles on campus. The few students in the audience asked questions about the administrative dealings with sexual assault and how Security goes about dealing with such situations.

“When a person reports a situation like this, many things will happen administratively, but the first and most important thing is the safety and well-being of the individual,” Mauldin said.

Sweetland described her role in the process as one of a facilitator.

“I help students understand their options and offer as many University-based resources as they are willing to pursue,” she said. “We don’t want to make anyone make any choices they do not want to make.”

Sweetland went on to mention the support available for students through the Interfaith Chapel, University Counseling Center and other campus offices. Security officer Matt Ras spoke about a Sexual Assault Awareness Group that has recently been started that promotes awareness about date rape and other issues. He expressed that, overall, campus support for the group has been positive. University Health Services Health Promotions member Nancy Reynolds spoke briefly about the medical aspects of treatment and care for victims.

“It is the right of everyone to pursue these issues and it is our duty and commitment to provide whatever resources people need to get through [this potentially difficult time],” Mauldin stressed.

The Town Hall meeting was one of many events this week sponsored by various campus groups. The Wado-Ryu Karate Club sponsored a self-defense workshop on Monday. A cell phone drive was set up at the circulation desk of Rush Rhees Library, aiming to collect items to provide victims of domestic violence with emergency phones.

As a public display of violence awareness, the Clothesline Project was displayed in Wilson Commons. The project showcases T-shirts designed by rape and sexual assault victims in an effort to raise awareness of these social issues.

The week’s events culminate in a candlelight vigil to be held across campus on Thursday night called Take Back the Night. This program is intended to allow students to “take back the night” stolen from them and demand an end to violence once and for all.

“Many people in our age group have a tendency to believe that sexual assault only happens to people who ‘deserved’ it or that it simply doesn’t happen at all,” Zabelny said. “This week of events is to show that it does happen, that we can take steps forward to stop it, and we can support those who have already suffered.”

“[Sexual assault] happens in our towns, on our campus, in our halls,” Zabelny said. “The more we talk about it, the better we can protect ourselves and support each other. As for those that have already been touched by rape, this week is to show that they are not alone, that there are people to support them and that it is never their fault.”

Women’s Caucus, UR Security, the UHS Health Promotions Office, Students’ Association, Gamma Phi Beta Sorority, Sigma Psi Zeta Sorority, Amnesty International, VOX and the Pride Network hosted this week’s events.

Sahay is a member of the class of 2010.

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