Students convene for sexual assault talk

By Phil Collins

Sexual assault is a difficult issue to deal with no matter how one looks at it. On April 20, University students of both genders discussed the problem at La Casa Cultural Latina. Despite the pouring rain, the turnout was not much less than expected.

The night started with a general introduction and preview of what was to come, along with complimentary food and drink. Students were then separated into two smaller groups by gender, lead by adult discussion facilitators. Each group discussed sexual assault in detail, aiming to gather opinions about the causes, perceptions of victims and assailants, how to help victims, how it effects the Latino community and how it can be prevented.

“Even though we have different vocabulary and different definitions for everything that we were talking about, the concerns were all basically the same for girls and guys,” said Claribel Guzman, sophomore in education.

After the separated dialogue, the original group came back together and compared ideas. Friendly debate ensued, with each side offering some valuable insight to the situation.

“A lot of actions that men take, I learned today, can actually add to the situation and make it a lot worse. Saying things like, ‘it’s the women’s fault’ or ‘the women have to prevent it’. It’s not only one-sided, it’s both-sided,” said Adrian Calderon, sophomore in LAS.

Students found it difficult to come to a consensus about how sexual assault can be prevented. It was agreed that it is important to act if the situation arises.

“It’s different saying that you’ll help them out and actually committing the action and helping them out. I think that’s something that we’re all at fault at,” said Patty Garcia, sophomore in LAS.

Students argued over what exactly constitutes consent, especially over whether verbal consent must actually be given. The root of difficulty in how to prevent sexual assault came from not being able to specifically define what causes it. While some cases are obvious, other situations can be ambiguous, particularly at the bars. One point agreed upon was the importance of looking out for friends.

“When you see someone that you know kind of struggling and fighting against someone (and) you have no idea who they are, you’re more likely to back them up,” Calderon said. “Hearing what everyone was saying about helping that individual, a lot of the girls mentioned that even if I don’t know her, I’m still going to back her up. I think a part of that is instilled in our culture”.

The dialogue additionally focused on how the issue effects the Latino community.

One concern raised was the disproportionately high coverage of minority crime, and the generalizations made about sexual assault in relation to the Latino community and in general.

“One of the main reasons why it’s a taboo issue in the Latino community comes down to the fault of the mass media. They portray so much machismo (over-abundance of masculinity), that’s what I blame,” Garcia said.

Students also discussed what to say or not to say to a victim of sexual assault, whether it was through the experience of helping a friend or simply an opinion.

“Whatever they need, be there for them,” Guzman said.

Sensitivity was emphasized in the situation, as well as keeping in mind the victim’s mental and physical needs. Believing the victim was also stressed, even if the assailant is also an acquaintance and it seems unbelievable.

“Try not to tell the person to retell the story because it’s really hard especially if they bring the experience up again. Also encourage them to go see a doctor,” Garcia said.