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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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CASO hosts rape info session for awareness

One out of four college women are sexually assaulted according to a video produced by the Coalition Against Sexual Offenses. To help raise awareness of the resources available to sexual assult victims, CASO hosted a question-and-answer session in the Union yesterday.

CASO, founded in 1989, helped to start programs like “Men Educating Men in the Prevention of Sexual Assault” and the “Sexual Assault Information Network.”

“First Responders: Effectively Responding to Disclosures of Sexual Assault” was a forum to educate those whom the victim first confides in after the assault occurs.

Betty Yarris, co-chairperson of CASO and counselor from the Counseling Center, said that first responders should understand the victims’ conflict of deciding whether or not to talk about the assault.

“Trauma is something that is not supposed to happen. It can be hard to make sense of it,” Yarris said.

Adding to the confusion, most sexual assaults against college women are committed by someone they know.

Feeling a loss of power is common in victims, according to Barbara Hoffman, another co-chairperson of CASO and Wellness Connection coordinator. Power is what victims want to get back.

“You should always ask ‘How can I help you?’ instead of ‘You need to talk to a counselor or the police,'” Hoffman said.

Hoffman and Yarris were joined by Victim’s Advocate, Rebecca Nichols Theis.

Theis detailed the assistance she could provide victims — including helping with campus relocation, supporting the victim at legal proceedings and making accommodations with professors if needed and wanted.

“We never push a student into something they don’t want to do,” Theis said.

Michael Ginsburg of the Student Discipline program spoke about the process of sanctions if the attacker is a student and the victim chooses to go through with University discipline.

Victims could choose to pursue both criminal and University punishments.

All speakers asked that every sexual assault be reported, even if they are done anonymously, because the data collected could help with efforts to prevent other sexual offenses.

Students concerned about privacy can seek help through the Counseling Center, the Psychological Services Center and the Victim’s Advocate. All these programs offer complete confidentiality, unless lives are at risk.

Currently, CASO is working with area bars to print messages on napkins making people aware of sexual assault, especially with regards to alcohol involvement. In a majority of rape cases, alcohol or drugs were used prior to the attack by both the victim and the attacker.

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