SG candidates must recognize current sexual assault awareness resources

Jackson Miller and Jay Wilk

This past week, Student Government candidates across the board have mentioned resources for survivors of sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking on campus, including Voices Against Violence (VAV). Activists in this prevention work have appreciated increased conversation surrounding these topics. Unfortunately, however, misinformation has increased regarding what these resources already provide. Therefore, while clearing up some misunderstandings, we would like to ultimately urge candidates to understand what VAV already does and to connect with them during their campaigns.

Approaching its 15th birthday this spring, VAV has long offered a myriad of survivor-centered services and resources for students affected by relationship violence, sexual assault and/or stalking. Principally, VAV has offered individual and group counseling as part of the Counseling and Mental Health Center as well as advocacy appointments for students seeking a plan of action or access to the Survivor’s Emergency Fund.

Additionally, VAV already has its own endowment. In 2005, UT’s Orange Jackets gave $10,000 to VAV to fund its programming and services. This endowment could be intentionally grown, but a second endowment, as suggested by candidates in the past week, would not be as useful. Endowments have delayed rewards and require years to build up interest. However, we encourage more candidates to support funding the Survivors Emergency Fund by advocating that SG directly gives or raises money to the fund, just as other student organizations have already done, as it provides a more immediate difference.

As to the partnerships that have been suggested, candidates must understand that VAV's reach already extends far beyond its base in the Student Services Building. VAV has worked with and visited universities outside of Texas, partnered with University Health Services (UHS) and SafePlace to offer Sexual Assault Forensic Exams on campus and has been recognized by the White House. VAV has worked with other on- and off-campus organizations throughout the years, including, but not limited to, the Feminist Action Project, the Women’s Resource Agency and Not On My Campus. Partnerships for VAV are nothing new.

Finally, VAV also exports resources to others via educational programming. This includes VAV’s new “Interrupting Rape Culture” workshops, where peer leaders visit organizations, classes and residence halls to discuss bystander awareness and shifting our culture. Other outreach efforts include Theater for Dialogue programs such as Get Sexy, Get Consent and I Like LIKE You. Candidates interested in starting discussions on campus should advocate, promote and attend these events if they are truly interested in supporting VAV.

We are deeply appreciative of these conversations since a problem cannot be overcome if we don’t talk about it. We just wish that this could happen with a little less misinformation and a little more dedication to understanding what work has already been done. If candidates want to make a positive difference on this campus, they should promote and understand the services that are already offered on our campus as well as try to meet and work closely with those which their platforms affect.

Wilk is an English senior from Justin, Texas, and Miller is a classical archaeology and French senior from Albuquerque, New Mexico.