Women’s safety is an often discussed topic in today’s society, and with good reason.
Case in point — recent local headlines read:
▪ March 13, 2015 | “Man threatens to bury woman in backyard, children present during assault”
▪ April 16, 2015 | “Police responded to sexual assault that occurred in wooded area, searching for suspects”
Never miss a local story.
▪ April 23, 2015 | “Man arrested in connection with weekend sexual assault”
▪ June 11, 2015 | “Two men arrested in connection with separate hotel sexual assaults”
▪ June 16, 2015 | “Myrtle Beach police make arrests in connection with recent reports of sexual assualts”
1 in 4 girls will be a victim of sexual assault before they are 18.
Physical and sexual violence should never be up to women to prevent since the victims are not the ones at fault.
Risk reduction may sound nice at first, but what this society needs is a complete shift in thinking. Violence toward women and gender minorities remains a problem.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 1 in 4 girls will be a victim of sexual assault before they are 18, and 1 in 6 women throughout their lives will experience attempted or completed sexual assault (www.nsvrc.org).
The majority of these crimes happen between acquaintances, friends and significant others, often in the safety of their homes. In Myrtle Beach, these past summer months have seen [insert amount here] amount of reported sexual assaults alone.
The push for a new way of thinking and social change is referred to by the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault as primary prevention (www.sccadvasa.org). Primary prevention is for all humans — no matter what gender, no matter what age — to learn about again and again until common sense becomes the social norm.
1 in 6 women throughout their lives will experience attempted or completed sexual assault
One of the ways SCCADVASA defines primary prevention is “Promotion of comprehensive and multidisciplinary approaches to preventing violence against women and girls before it occurs by impeding the development of perpetrators.”
With a new semester about to begin and public schools getting back in session, this information comes at a crucial time. There are many resources that encourage keeping the college environment safe and fun. According to Dr. Debbie Conner, Coastal Carolina University’s vice president for campus life and student engagement, the college’s goal is to have a safe campus altogether.
“An important part of the community is to feel safe,” she said.
She also said the college faculty are working “in conjunction with the campus police to make sure [students] know who to call” and keep them “aware of where to go for help.”
Local police departments work together with CCU’s campus police to have a women-only one-credit course on self-defense. The focus is mainly on physical defense, but they also teach the students how to mentally prepare themselves.
In the University Public Safety Department, Thom Mezzapelle, part of the campus police administration, says about learning self-defense that “These are options you can take if you need them. We would not force anybody to use what they learn … if they don’t agree with their lifestyle.”
The options are there for those who choose to pre-emptively “arm” themselves, especially for the students at CCU and nearby Horry-Georgetown Technical College.
In the end, everybody is responsible for decreasing sexual and physical violence by understanding and using primary prevention to move our country to a safer place.
Sexual violence is a national problem, true, but change begins on the lowest level: you.
Here are a few more tips on how to make smart decisions.
- It’s always smart to be familiar with the area you’ll now be living in, so learn your way around if you’re a freshman on campus or a transfer student. Make mental notes of the call boxes on campus and be aware of how to use panic buttons located in dorm rooms.
- Pay attention during the introductory safety classes during orientation. No matter how smart you think you may be, there is always room to learn, mature and grow.
- These orientation classes will also provide you with a booklet of information, Title IX, including emergency contact numbers. CCU, like most colleges, also provides an Emergency Alert system that sends alerts campuswide through texts, plus anonymous tip lines and email systems for students to use. Make sure you’re signed up for the text alerts.
- Freshmen and new transfer students are also required to take a semester long class, University 110, intended on educating all students. This isn’t to learn preventative tactics, but to understand socially (and legally) acceptable ways of interacting. And because women aren’t the only victims, everybody needs to pay attention and learn. Sure, a goal for individuals may be to not become a victim, but every single human being’s goal should be not to victimize.
It’s party time
- Be aware of not only campus rules, but the rules of your organization, Panhellenic or not. Oftentimes, national organizations have stricter rules than the university itself. Abide by these rules because they’re there for a reason. When in doubt, look it up or ask.
- All events hosted by student organizations must be registered with the college, even if they are off campus and even if no alcohol is involved. Strict and swift responses happen for any unregistered event. If you get invited to an event that claims to be student-organized but you can’t find any university information on it, be cautious.
- Drink safety is generally understood by today’s society, but the truth of the matter is the risk-reduction tactics — like not accepting open drinks from someone you hardly know at a party — will only encourage perpetrators to go after another party-goer who would. As such, these techniques don’t really prevent rape.
- If you happen to witness a potentially dangerous situation, or are just suspicious of something going on, bystander intervention encourages you to step in. The No More campaign advocates this technique but also emphasizes only using it when you feel you can safely intervene. Don’t put yourself in danger or do anything to inflame the situation. Students will receive more information about being a bystander in University 110 and how to safely intervene, but accessing nomore.org can also provide knowledge instantly.
On the receiving end
- Do your best to say what you’re thinking. It’s not always easy, especially when you’re nervous or trying to be polite. But do not worry about hurting someone’s “feelings.” Your safety and comfort is far more important if you feel your personal boundaries are being crossed or you’re being violated.
- Trust your gut. If you feel like something is wrong, or if you are even vaguely uncomfortable, you are under no obligation. You owe nothing to anyone trying to pressure you; you don’t even need a cohesive reason to reject them.
- First and foremost: GET CONSENT. Only a definite affirmative answer counts, not lack of one, not a drunken one. If there is no explicit approval, you need to back off.
- Continued pursuit after indicated disinterest or an outright refusal crosses the line from annoying and creepy to criminal. Whomever you are showing interest in may not just be “playing hard to get,” nor is it your place to decide if they actually desire your attention.
- Rejection is not the end of the world. Rejection of respecting someone else’s privacy and comfort zone, however, could be the end of yours.
- Consensual relationships should be aware of and utilize the best accessible protection and the resources available to them, both on campus and off. CCU’s student health clinic has an array of services easily accessible to students, including but not limited to STI tests.
- Some clinics provide free condoms and birth control. Look into what is available to you and your partner. For students, if there is a more serious health issue, the student clinic will use referrals to get you the proper treatment needed.
- Be honest with your partner as well; in case you haven’t realized yet, accurate communication is vitally important for humans but so often forgotten about. Also, always keep in mind that being in a relationship does not guarantee consent.
There is hope
- Should an attack happen, don’t be afraid to respond to a serious event in kind. Campus police are there for a reason, even if nothing has actually happened and you simply feel threatened. But if something has happened, then make sure the right authorities know – the sooner the better.
- If you are a victim of attempted or completed assault, remember: it is not your fault.
- The campus police and county police have ways of keeping a victim’s privacy. Don’t let a violation of your rights as a human go unpunished.
- Some resources:
▪ Horry and Georgetown County’s rape crisis center: victimtosurvivor.org and 843-448-7273
▪ National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
▪ National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
Coastal Carolina University and other organizations are taking steps to promote primary prevention and educate the thousands of students. Never be afraid to speak out and stand up for what is right, as a victim or supporter.
Sexual violence is a national problem, true, but change begins on the lowest level: you.
▪ Rape Crisis Center | Individual counseling, support group, 24-hour hotline for victims of sexual assault. 843-448-3180 or 843-448-7273.
▪ National Safe Haven Alliance | Operates a 24-hour hotline that women in distress can use for anonymous assistance. 888-510-2229.
▪ Unplanned pregnancy? | Free pregnancy testing, free counseling and support. Coastline Women’s Center. 843-488-9971.
What | “Red Light – An Effort to STOP Human Trafficking”
Where | Belin Memorial United Methodist Church’s Family Life Center
When | Saturday, Aug. 29 from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
How much | Free
Details | To bring attention to the horrific reality of human trafficking. The symposium will feature U.S. Senator Tim Scott, Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson, Medical Missionary to the Dominican Republic Vanessa Suggs, and Belin Memorial UMC Associate Pastor the Rev. Scott Johnson. The Red Light event focuses on both “awareness and action. Each of the speakers will bring a unique perspective to the reality of human trafficking by offering political, social and theological insights to raise awareness. Participants who plan to attend the event are asked to bring toiletry items that will be donated to Sea Haven, which is a residential facility for homeless teenagers and is located in Little River. Lunch will be provided by Chick-fil-A of Murrells Inlet.
To register | visit www.belinumc.org and fill out the registration form online.