April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, during which Texas Tech hosts events to bring attention and support to survivors of sexual violence. The month revolves around consent education and informational opportunities for students and survivors alike to learn about preventative measures, as well as support resources available following an act of sexual violence. 

Alex Faris, Tech’s Title IX Training and Outreach Coordinator, detailed the resources his office provides, as well as its role in a sexual assault case. 

“If it is something that occurred on campus with people who are affiliated with the university, it is highly recommended to connect them with our Title IX office for support,” Faris said. “There are many things we can do to help them academically. We can connect them with law enforcement if they choose to do so; we can get them connected with medical or mental health care resources, both on campus and in the community, that are available to them.”

The Title IX office works with survivors to promote healing and communication, and can facilitate schedule changes, excused absences, parking and housing accommodations and correspondence with law enforcement. 

“If they choose to work with our office, the very first thing that we do is provide them supportive measures. These are resources that the university provides that can help them in their situation, to either process the trauma or get medical care,” Faris said. “We don’t contact law enforcement without the consent of the survivor, but if they want that support we can help them.”

Faris highlighted the significance of consent, and said it can be seen in every aspect of life and is the basis of all intimate relationships. 

“At Texas Tech, consent is mutually understandable words or actions that clearly communicate permission for sexual activity. It has to be something that’s informed, something that’s mutual and not coerced, and that consent can never be implied or assumed,” Faris said. “The absence of a no is not a yes, and it’s aways to the advantage of anyone who initiates any type of sexual activity to get verbal consent.”

Jorgann Holgersen, Program Manager for Peer Education and Outreach at Tech Risk Intervention and Safety Education (RISE), noted the impact a month dedicated to awareness and education can have. 

“Sexual assault has been something that has historically been very prevalent on college campuses. Bringing awareness that this is an actual problem that we need to be addressing and to be speaking out about collectively, that’s a huge portion,” Holgersen said. “The month gives us time to do a variety of different outreaches and education about these things in a variety of different ways to hopefully reach as many people as possible.”

Holgersen chairs the RISE Sexual Assault Awareness Month Planning Committee, which has prepared events ranging from Coffee & Consent at local coffee shops to the upcoming Denim Day and Take Back the Night events. 

Denim Day is held on the last Wednesday in April, and originated with an Italian court case in the 1990s. An 18-year-old woman’s driving instructor was convicted of her rape, a conviction that was overturned on the basis that the survivor’s jeans were too tight, and thus she would have had to help the man remove them, denoting consent. The overturning ignited protests that reached the States, resulting in the development of Denim Day. 

 “Denim Day brings awareness to the myth surrounding sexual violence and brings awareness that our role is not to blame (survivors). Our role is to connect (survivors) with support,” Title IX’s Alex Faris said. 

 The events hosted by RISE and the services offered by Title IX serve to connect the campus community in promotion of a united front against sexual violence.  

“It’s a really great opportunity to have a collective voice to speak out against sexual assault and violence,” Jorgann Holgersen said. 

McKenzie Johnson, a first-year nursing student from Dumas, noted the importance of sexual assault awareness on a college campus. 

“A lot of sexual assault does go on (around) campus, especially during the night,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of damage that can come from (sexual assault) … so I think people being aware that it’s going on is good.” 

The month of April will highlight the impact of awareness and the importance of both preventive and supportive measures for survivors of sexual violence. At Tech, the resources, information and people available hope to offer a safe and welcoming community for survivors in need. 


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