Sexual assualt groups aim to educate Boulder
College students face a greater risk of sexual assault than they ever will once they’re out of school, but organizations in Boulder are trying to raise awareness and help combat the issue.
CU Rape and Gender Education Program and Moving to End Sexual Assault are two organizations trying to eliminate sexual assaults. The groups reach out to the community in different ways, but the issue still dominates college towns.
“People in college are much more likely to be sexually assaulted. It’s important to raise awareness for the administration and students,” said Alyssa Oliveri, the public relations manager for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.
Sexual assaults happen five to 10 times per semester at CU. The form it takes is often different from common conceptions, said Miriam Barrere, a women’s studies major and the student coordinator for COURAGE.
“It’s most likely going to be a friend walking you back from the library,” said Barrere.
Sexual assault ranges from rape to psychological abuse of a partner.
COURAGE came into existence in the 1980s. A nurse at Wardenburg Health Center established it to forge a path to support groups. The organization aims to guide victims to therapy and educate the community, Barrere said.
“All of us know a survivor through someone we know. I just urge everyone to be supportive of those that disclose that information,” said Barrere.
COURAGE and the Interactive Theatre Program developed a play to raise empathy for sexual assault victims. The dialogue derives from anonymous stories of sexual assault. They aim to illustrate how the injustice occurs. The program, Real Conversations, will be performed Oct. 25 at 5 p.m. at the UMC.
MESA is a non-CU-based organization that operates a rape crisis hotline for Boulder County. Additionally, the organization performs outreach projects to different communities, like the Hispanic population, to educate women. The group also teaches prevention education to young men.
The decision to teach men stems from a new strain of anti-sexist philosophy – the idea of primary prevention. This prevention plan is based on the belief that rape is caused by men’s behavior, not women’s choices. The organization believes a society of well-informed men has less sexual assault cases, said MESA Assistant Director Marti Hopper.
MESA talks to young men about sexism, gender violence, violent masculinity and obtaining consent. Many in the organization believe the media perpetuates chauvinistic male roles. Hopper said that violent and sexually aggressive stereotypes pushed by MTV and World Wrestling Entertainment exacerbate the problem of sexual violence.
Despite their prevention approach, Hopper remains skeptical about ending sexual assaults entirely.
“We would all love to be out of a job,” said Hopper. “It’s not gonna happen in my lifetime.”
Hopper said she finds hope not in lower statistics but in personal stories. One woman approached a MESA employee in a store and thanked her. The woman said MESA’s rape hotline saved her life.