Five incidents of sexual assault were reported to have happened within two weeks at the end of September and beginning of October on the New Mexico State University campus.According to NMSU police chief Stephen Lopez, “NMSU usually sees around four or five sexual assault or rape cases reported to the police department each year.”
The issue of sexual assault and other sexual misconduct is at the forefront of universities nationwide. A memo from Chancellor Arvizu and President Floros addressing the incidents outlines a few actions NMSU leadership plans to take in an effort to eliminate sexual assault on our campuses and ensure that NMSU is a safe and secure environment for everyone. These actions include emphasizing “personal safety and wellness” training for residence hall staff, reviewing housing safety, developing a “comprehensive strategic safety plan for housing,” and creating a task force.
The NMSU administration has acted on these plans by launching the “STAND UP, SPEAK OUT” campaign, which is designed to encourage students, faculty and staff to be active bystanders.
“I was devastated,” said an NMSU sophomore who was a victim of sexual assault last spring. “I was crying myself to sleep. I thought I couldn’t be the person I was prior to being sexually assaulted.”
Some students have chosen to handle assault cases themselves for a number of reasons including fear of not being believed, fear of being pursued by the offender or reluctance to go through the lengthy legal process of pressing charges.
“I feel, more than ever, entitled to make a difference in our on-campus community. I care for these students, and it’s my duty to establish a safe environment in our dorms,” said John Babington, a resident assistant at Garcia Hall.
Each spring, New Mexico State embraces the “It’s on Us” pledge. It’s on Us is a national campaign that was introduced as part of the “White House Task Force against Sexual Assault.” The campaign asks students and staff to pledge to:
- Recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault
- Identify situations in which sexual assault may occur
- Intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given
- Create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.
There are many resources available to those in the NMSU community. La Piñon is an organization located in Las Cruces serving sexual assault survivors with recovery resources and steps to help them regain control of their lives. On campus, students can reach out to the Wellness, Alcohol and Violence Education (WAVE) program. The Aggie Health and Wellness Center offers counseling and medical treatment with access to medical professionals.
“Far too often I’ve read about universities with similar cases and the lack of support they receive, so I am proud of my college for stepping up the way they have to combat these cases,” said Matthew Youtz, a junior at NMSU.