Consent workshop allows students to discuss sexual harassment issues

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Solutions to end sexual assault and harassment issues faced on and off campus were discussed during a consent workshop, sponsored by the Dean of Students, in the Sorensen Center Building Feb. 14.

According to the 2017 campus climate survey, one in 13 females and one in 48 males said they had experienced sexual assault since coming to UVU. The climate survey discovered that the most common reason given for not reporting sexual misconduct to UVU was that the victim did not feel the incident was serious enough to report.

“Rape culture is a culture that sets the stage for rape to be a normal thing, and it works by restricting a person’s use of their body and granting others a sense of entitlement to it,” said Ashley Larsen, Associate Dean of Students. “Toxic masculinity gives the sense that they are entitled to some sort of sexual activity with women, and that women have to be submissive. So this standard stereotype that women have to be passive and submissive is that piece of someone having to give up control over their body.”

UVU has adopted the motto, “Yes means yes and no mean no,” in order to emphasize and address the issue that assault is severely under reported.

Many students who have experienced sexual assault have begun to gain a voice in social media, demanding that as a culture we need to recognize and address  issues surrounding sexual assault.

“Rape and sexual assault is hands down one of the most important topics we as a society need to talk about, especially in Utah,” said a student who was raped last year. “Utah has one of the highest rape rates but the lowest report rates.”

The student described rape and sex culture as topics people find too taboo and are uncomfortable discussing.

“That’s why it needs to be talked about,” she said. “People need to be comfortable. People need to understand that rape can happen many different ways. And when a victim opens up to someone, that person needs to shut their mouth, listen, believe them and ask what they can do to help.”

“It definitely messed me up mentally,” she said. “I couldn’t focus on anything which led me having to quit my job, everything was a blur and I wasn’t able to process anything. The night just replayed over and over in my head. This lasted for a few months after. My emotional health was a bigger issue. I was on anxiety medication, which I abused, so I quickly stopped. I was depressed and I hated myself. While I don’t cry about it and it doesn’t affect my life anymore, I still think about it daily and it will forever be a part of me.”

Students who attended the workshop expressed that they feel belittled or attacked by others if they attempt to talk about these issues. Larsen sympathized, expressing that it is a hard battle to know what to say and to whom.

“Consent is a dialogue, it’s on going, it’s a process and that’s why healthy communication about sex and things like it are so critical,” said Larsen. “Let’s be honest, open and talk about these things.”

Ashley Larsen, Associate Dean of Students, speaks about the importance of consent. Photo by Michelle Rivas.