Former Sen. Wendy Davis hands students the mic to discuss sexual assault

Allyson Waller

Former Texas Senator Wendy Davis is known as one of the most progressive voices in Texas, but on Wednesday evening, Davis let the voices of students join hers as student leaders discussed the impact of sexual assault on college campuses.

UT students Alison Aydin from UT’s Voices Against Violence and Sophie Jerwick from UT’s Not on My Campus talked about their experiences working for Davis’ nonprofit, Deeds Not Words, at a panel hosted by University Democrats. Davis’ nonprofit works to promote equality for women in the state and helps give them the tools to mobilize their communities to get involved in policies that matter to them.

“The work that we’re doing for Deeds Not Words (is) we help students learn how to share their story and to use personal story to persuade, because it’s the most powerful tool that we have,” Davis said.

During Texas’ 85th legislative session, Aydin and Jerwick worked on specific bills involving sexual assault, such as House Bill 281, which makes it easier for victims to track their DNA samples contained in rape kits.

“So many times we see people going through this very traumatic and long process of having a rape examination done after an assault and having no way of knowing what happened to their DNA, to that data (and) to that kit,” Plan II senior Jerwick said.

Aydin, human development and family sciences junior, also testified for Senate Bill 968, which worked to create an anonymous electronic system for people to report sexual assault.

“Basically, if you’re assaulted you have the ability to electronically report it so it’s … easier than going (to report it) in person,” Aydin said.

The panelists discussed Title IX, part of the U.S. Education Code that prohibits discrimination in education on the basis of gender.

The landscape of Title IX has shifted, and there is now less clarity around how people who come forward to report sexual assaults are treated under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Davis said.

Jerwick said she feels universities can do better in addressing sexual assault.

“The question here is making sure students are educated enough on what consent actually is so they’re not committing assault,” Jerwick said. “I think there is such a drought of talking about what consent looks like (and) what sexual assault looks like.”