NSU promotes safe environment for sexual assault victims to speak out
TNE Editor
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NSU promotes safe environment for sexual assault victims to speak out

Published 2/7/2018

Tabby Talbot

TNE Writer

Sexual assault victims across the nation are standing up and speaking out against their abusers. Movements like #MeToo have given women and men everywhere a voice to speak out about their experiences. Faculty, staff and students work to make NSU a campus where all community members have a voice.

 According to NSU’s 2017 Annual Security and Fire Report provided by Patti Buhl, public safety director, there were 14 sexual assault cases across NSU’s three campuses between 2014 and 2016. Sexual assault is defined as, “any sexual act directed against another person, without consent of the victim, including instances where the victim is incapable of giving consent.” Five rape cases, one statutory rape case and eight fondling cases occurred on the Tahlequah campus. The University of Oklahoma has a sexual assault comparison number of 38 for the years 2013 through 2015. Oklahoma State University had a total of 20 sexual assault cases betweem 2014 and 2016.

“We immediately contact HawkReach and an advocate is called in to speak with him or her,” said Buhl. “We take all steps necessary to provide a supportive environment. For example, we may work with housing to get housing arrangements changed or work through Student Affairs to help get class schedules changed if necessary. We collect the information we need during the process but try to do so in a manner that doesn't require the person to repeat the story. Each situation is different so there could be any number of ways in which we respond, depending on circumstances.”

Information about student advocates, counseling resources, local services, medical services and interim measures that are available to students are also provided in the report. In addition to campus-provided resources, students have also started awareness groups.

Tyler Warrior is the founder of It’s On Us: NSU. It’s On Us is an initiative that was started by Joe Biden and the Obama Administration in 2014. It is a movement that calls to end sexual assault across all college campuses within the U.S.

“Sexual assault can happen to anyone,” said Warrior. “Male or female, it makes no difference. We are living in a time where sexual assault is a prevalent force, and now more than ever we need to support, love and believe the survivors of sexual assault. We need to quit living inside of this belief that if it didn’t happen to us, it’s not our problem. It is our problem. We need to all do whatever we can to stop this growing epidemic and give those who have had their voices stolen a chance to reclaim their voice and prevent this act of violence from happening to anyone else.”

Warrior is the current chapter adviser for the national It’s On Us team. His job is to work with faculty and staff to help create an environment where students feel safe. Warrior said he himself has never been a victim of sexual assault but has seen the effect is has had on many of his friends and family members. Seeing how sexual assault affected their lives is what inspired him to become a part of the It’s On Us campaign.

“Speak your truth,” said Warrior. “So many survivors have had their voices stolen from them out of fear of what may happen to them for speaking their truth, and it’s sad. What happened to you is not your fault. You are not to blame, and with your voice you can give so many other people the strength that they never knew they had to speak their truth. You are not a victim, you are a victor and you are not alone.”

Sexual assault not only has immediate effects on the victims, but also mental effects after the assault takes place. Counseling helped Bethany Johnson, Sand Springs junior, through her experience. Johnson said she experienced sexual assault in a previous relationship she was trapped in for three years.

“Sexual assault severely damages someone’s mentality,” said Johnson. “Mental scars are left in the victim’s mind. The victim may feel depressed, experience PTSD and develop mental disorders from the pain the memories left behind.”

Johnson said it is important to note, although it may harm the victim mentally, it does not ruin them. Johnson said there will come a time when the victim will recognize themselves as a survivor and not a victim. She said this is the moment the mental damage begins to repair and life becomes better. Johnson offered words of advice to others.

“Unfortunately, what happened isn’t something you can just forget and move on from,” said Johnson. “But that doesn’t mean you have to be controlled by it. There is hope from moving on and experiencing life after. Seek professional help, even if you think that you don’t need it. It really makes a world of difference. Take it one day at a time if you need to. There is more to this life than our experiences. We are so much more than our past. Don’t let your life be controlled by the past. Live your life to the absolute fullest and rely on everyone around you when you feel broken. Find joy in your life to fill that hole that you feel in your chest, the one that reminds you that something has been taken from you or your life has been changed in a way you may not feel you can come back from. I am a living testament to say there is a life after this pain. There is so much more to look forward to. Now go live and find out what all is in store for you.”

For more information about resources available to students, view the 2017 Annual Security and Fire Report.

For more information about counseling, visit the HawkReach Counseling Services.

For more information about It’s On Us, email Warrior at warriort@nsuok.edu.

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