Activism at TU: Preventing sexual assault on and off campus 

More than half of the United States has moved to stay-at-home orders amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Students are completing their classes away from campus, people are working from home and many domestic violence victims are quarantined with their abusers. The month of April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and normally includes signature events such as Take Back the Night and Denim Day. Due to the COVID-19 virus, those events were moved online via social media to promote survivor support.

Every 73 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. The University of Tulsa Office of Sexual Violence Prevention and Education’s goal is to design programs and policies that prohibit any form of sexual misconduct, sexual assault, domestic or dating violence, and stalking before they occur. Kelsey Hancock (BA ’13, MA ’16), violence prevention coordinator, connects students with on-campus resources like the DVIS survivor advocate, counseling and psychological services (CAPS) and improves their safety by connecting students to the Title IX coordinator who facilitates resource management i.e.: no-contact orders, housing accommodation request and academic accommodations.

TU's clothes line project in 2015
TU’s clothes line project in 2015

It’s on us

As TU moved to virtual courses, students were urged to leave campus for social distancing protocols, but students at risk of abuse or assault in their homes could remain on campus. “Through our restriction of housing for the remainder of the spring semester due to COVID-19, students who had technology issues or safety concerns or are international students could fill out a waiver to stay on campus. It’s our No. 1 priority to provide students with a safe place to live,” said Scott Gove, associate director of housing and residence life.

According to USA Today, Detroit received 769 domestic violence calls in the last two weeks of March, a 9% spike from weeks prior. In Tucson, Arizona, police recorded 292 domestic violence incidents, also up 9%.

“Like the coronavirus, we knew there were about 10,000 cases in the U.S., but the number was probably much larger. Those were reported numbers versus real numbers. That’s the same situation with assault,” Hancock said.

One of Hancock’s goals is to decrease the amount of domestic violence and sexual assault cases through TU education and prevention resources and to increase reporting so that the university can help students.

Building trust

Each year a campus climate survey is offered to students, faculty and staff by the TU Institute of Trauma, Adversity and Injustice in partnership with the Advocacy Alliance. The survey investigates the prevalence rates, attitudes regarding interpersonal violence, knowledge of and access to resources, alcohol and drug consumption, mental health symptoms and perception of preventative and response efforts by the university.

Graph showing the growth of students perception of university policy, leadership and reporting procedures between 2014 and 2019.

According to 91.2% of student survey participants regarding university policy, leadership and reporting procedures, the university is “very likely” to “moderately likely” take the report seriously. Each TU student is expected to treat peers with respect and honor the boundaries and privacy of others.

Although this statistic is encouraging, Hancock said she’d like to see even stronger survey results; TU vows to stand with survivors of interpersonal violence and ensures that campus members are trained to know what their power is to help prevent these occurrences through bystander intervention.

The Student Alliance for Violence Education (SAVE) is a student organization focused on the prevention of interpersonal violence and awareness of issues related to violence. SAVE regularly sponsors events related to its mission and routinely collaborates with the Advocacy Alliance on sexual violence prevention efforts on campus and in the Tulsa community.

If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, please seek the resources available online and in person. If you are in immediate danger please call 911.

Help is here

Campus resources:

Online resources: