Loras strives to combat sexual assault

A new campaign is underway around campus, but this time it has nothing to do with politics.

Student life, Campus Security, Dean of Students Art Sunleaf and Kim Walsh, program coordinator for Student Life, are just part of the team that launched a “Consent” campaign this spring to begin discussion on sexual violence and consent.

“We knew that we couldn’t go ‘old school’ with this one,” Sunleaf said. “This isn’t a discussion to have in a formal setting in the ballrooms; we needed something that would really reach students.”

Sunleaf went on to explain the team who launched the campaign was formed, in part, to meet the requirements of the Title 9 law that was newly updated in 2011.

The Department of Education’s Title 9 is usually cited as the law that prevents gender discrimination. However, it also requires that schools have a plan in place to report and follow up on reported sexual assaults, harassments, etc.

Sunleaf said that while Title 9 compliance is part of what drives this team, the need to educate students has just as much pull.

After conducting a campus climate survey last fall, Sunleaf and the team got feedback suggesting a need to take action to educate students better on sexual violence and safety.

“We have a lot of great students who simply don’t understand what it means to give and receive consent,” said Sunleaf. “So, we thought we’d take a proactive approach to solving that problem, and providing students with a skill set for those who are unsure”

Several universities made the news last year after several alleged attempts to cover up sexual assaults on their campuses, a solid violation of the Clery Act that requires all schools to report criminal incidences and happenings.

Sunleaf recognized the college’s proactive approach and said, “It’s easy to be reactive, but being proactive is harder,” he said. “Sexual relationships are an adult thing. One should be able to talk about it as an adult.”

This campaign is solely an administrative campaign. In the past, the college has worked closely with the Riverview Center in an effort to tap into the resources and services the organization has to offer on sexual assault and violence.

Carolina Rusinque, a representative from Riverview and former Duhawk, had this to say about the campaign on campus: “This is a great start to what has become a very big problem on college campuses everywhere.”

Rusinque went on to discuss some of the trickier Iowa laws that deem anyone who has consumed alcohol unfit to consent to sex. Having sex with anyone who has consumed alcohol, or vice-versa, could be viewed as rape, she said.

“That law is a tough one to navigate and I can understand the concern for a law with such a gray area,” said Rusinque. “But what it comes down to is making the decision not to take advantage of someone or to simply respect the dignity of another.”

Sunleaf echoed that theme as he explained that “Loras has a unique position to address the issue because our Catholic identity. Everything comes down to human dignity.”

While Rusinque is pleased with the progress being made at Loras, she is hopeful for even more change and education.

“I would really like to see more people being trained as active bystanders,” said Rusinque. “When everyone is condemning the behavior ahead of time, it’s the best kind of prevention because it addresses a mentality change. We have to teach people not to want to take advantage of each other; sex isn’t coerced, we have to respect the decisions that people make.”

Teaching and getting the word out on hot topics, like sexual violence, are two things that Sunleaf and the fifth-floor team aim to do with this campaign and others. For now Sunleaf advises students to keep an eye out for different poster campaigns every month as the campus begins to take on some of the tougher issues and discussions.

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