Back-to-School Coverage: Preventing sexual assaults in college

UTEP promotes a culture of non-tolerance, says dean of students

Back to School Coverage: Preventing Sexual Assault

EL PASO, Texas - A recent study published in the journal Violence Against Women found that 54 percent of student-athletes at an unnamed university campus in the southeastern part of the country admitted pressuring someone into having sex.

Of the non-athletes interviewed by researchers, 38 percent admitted to the same behavior.

ABC-7 reached out to administrators at the University of Texas at El Paso to find out how they work to keep students and student-athletes safe in light of the study and other incidents of sexual assaults on college campuses that made national headlines in recent months.

"I've been in the room when (UTEP Athletic Director Bob Stull) addressed coaches soon after those incidents were in the media," said UTEP's Dean of Students Catie McCorry-Andalis. "(He) stood up and said, 'We have no tolerance for this on campus,' in some very strong language and words to them. That speaks volumes when you have your administration just not tolerating that type of behavior."

McCorry-Andalis said those numbers from the study on sexual coercion on college campuses were far too high, and that one case of sexual assault is too many.

"We don't want to tolerate that behavior on our campus, or a culture that might be there," McCorry-Andalis told ABC-7 in an interview days before the school year began.

McCorry-Andalis said the university approaches the topic of sex assault prevention and consensual relationships before the school year begins. To emphasize her point, she said she was attending a seminar during new student orientation immediately following our interview. She also said UTEP's approach to educating students is varied: from brochures explaining how to report an incident, to seminars, to sharing educational videos on social media and during student orientation.

These aren't like the previous generation's "After School Special" videos, though.

"We utilize a video that's online called 'A Cup of Tea,' a video about how to have a relationship -- and it's all centered around a cup of tea," McCorry-Andalis said.

The video, which consists of stick figure people acting out the voiced-over scenarios, the narrator compares having sex to offering someone a cup of tea. In one part of the video, the narrator says, "If you say, 'Hey, would you like a cup of tea?' And they're like, 'Eh, I'm not really sure,' then you can make them a cup of tea -- or not -- but be aware they might not drink it. And if they don't drink it, then -- and this is the important part -- don't make them drink it."

"We use that repeatedly with our students, and it hits home," McCorry-Andalis said. "It's a creative, clever way of talking about how to have a relationship, and what's appropriate or not in a relationship."

Another way to reach the students comes at the grassroots level, with students and student athletes using positive peer pressure to influence those around them, she said, adding that it was one of the most effective outreach methods.

"I can say something I hope is powerful," McCorry-Andalis said. "But when you have your own peer, your fellow player on and off the court --that really is impactful in getting that message out there and supporting the safety of our community."

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center: One in 5 women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college. More than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault.

If something does happen, UTEP urges students to get safe, seek medical attention and report the incident to campus or city police, or any faculty member, supervisor, or coach.

comments powered by Disqus