UT must do more to prevent interpersonal violence and support survivors

Vanessa Sayroo, Contributor

Content warning: Interpersonal violence/sexual assault

Every single woman I know is a survivor of interpersonal violence. According to the Cultivating Learning and Safe Environments Report done at UT in 2017, 42% of students reported student-perpetrated sexual harassment and 18% of students reported unwanted sexual contact. Statistics collected by RAINN report that one in six women are a survivor of rape or attempted rape at a national level, and college women aged 18-24 are three times more likely to experience sexual violence than non-students. Male college-aged students are also 78% more likely to be a survivor of rape or sexual assault than non-students of the same age. These statistics are disheartening and devastating. We should not have to live in fear that every time we go to a party, to 6th Street or even just leave our residence that we will be harassed or assaulted. 

When sexual assault does occur, UT has little to no response. They tell us that the Counseling and Mental Health Center is available for free despite it being near impossible to make an appointment within a couple of days. They tell us “Report to Title IX” knowing that Title IX is overwhelmed with more cases than they could ever handle with the manpower they currently have and little funding provided to expand the department. They tell us “We care,” yet when students were begging for professors to be fired after sexually harassing students, they put those professors back in the classroom. 

I am tired. We are so tired of having to fight for people to believe us, for people to provide us with affordable and available resources, for us to be able to report our cases and for something to actually be done promptly without re-traumatizing ourselves. We have constantly called on UT to do something about the high rate of sexual violence on campus and UT is not listening. We want you to provide and mandate interpersonal violence prevention education to all students who are starting their journey on UT’s campus. We want open and transparent dialogue from UT and Title IX about the amount of cases, the amount of people handling cases and the amount of time these cases are taking. We need more money and people invested in resources for survivors. We want Greek life organizations and spirit groups to be held accountable for protecting the rapists in their organizations.  

As for organizations notorious for protecting rapists, do better. Educate yourselves and your members. Assign members of your organization to be on the lookout for dangerous situations during your events. Make sure that every single member of your organization knows exactly what consent is and that they respect it. Stop allowing rapists to remain in your organization because survivors don’t want to report their cases. That is a sad and unreasonable excuse to keep a rapist in your organization. Kick them out, and kick out anyone that feels it’s okay to protect them. Believe survivors. Please just believe survivors.

As the current acting president of Not On My Campus, a student-led organization with a peer education program, I see many survivors who are understandably unhappy with the way they are treated by Greek life, by Title IX, and by UT themselves. I’ve seen sororities refuse to believe survivors who are their own “sisters”. I’ve seen fraternities refuse to kick out known rapists in their organizations. I’ve seen spirit groups kick out members for using their voice to stand up for survivors. All of these situations had one thing in common: UT did not intervene. UT can and should do better in order to support survivors on our campus.

Sayroo is a fourth year nursing major and president-elect of the UT chapter of Not On My Campus.