|November 2, 2011|
Residence hall director raises awareness on importance of healthy relationships
Small field of flags represents 3.6 million people sexually assaulted each year
MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — They are just little red flags, but they carry a huge message: Sexual abuse needs to be addressed.
For Crystal Svoboda, who is the director of Rimrock Hall and has direct supervision of a few hundred college students at Montana State University Billings, the first step to solving the problem is awareness. So she took on a project designed to stop people in their day-to-day routines and pay attention to the problem of sexual assault.
She obtained 360 two-inch by three-inch red flags and — with the help of some students and colleagues — stuck them in the ground outside the south entrance to Petro Hall on the MSU Billings four-year campus. Each flag, fluttering in the fall breeze this week, is a steadfast and silent reminder of the 10,000 individuals sexually assaulted each year in the United States.
That’s 3.6 million people.
That cannot be ignored.
“I think it’s really impactful on how it spreads out. That’s a lot of people,” she said.
The local campaign is led by the catchy question “got consent?” and includes information as well as T-shirts worn by resident assistants at MSU Billings. The backs of shirts remind people that “consent is active, not passive.”
Svoboda, who is armed with data and studies about the impact of sexual assault and the importance of healthy relationships, noted sexual assault issues can develop at college campuses as easily as they can in a small town or a city. A recent study, she said, showed that 35 percent of college students who survive rape knew their attackers as fellow students and 34 percent of assault survivors knew their attackers as friends. Another 24 percent were attacked by boyfriends or ex-boyfriends.
In addition, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 20 percent to 25 percent of college women in the United States experience attempted or completed rape while in college.
For Svoboda, the next steps involve not only support for those who survive rape or attempted rape, but encouragement of healthy relationships that don’t run in cycles of abuse, forgiveness and further abuse.
“I really hope we can take a more active role in creating and supporting healthy relationships,” she said.
She is working with the Student Health Services on providing information, support and options for those who survive sexual assault. Through the university’s student code of conduct there are options for internal disciplinary charges as well as reporting procedures and criminal charges. She is also developing relationships with the YWCA which maintains a 24-hour crisis hotline and setting aside information she can provide as a healthy relationships advocate.
In the meantime, she will help raise awareness and let the flags draw attention to the issue. The small flag field will remain up through Saturday.
For more information, contact Svoboda at 657-2366.
PHOTO ABOVE: Crystal Svoboda, director of Rimrock Hall at MSU Billings, took on a project to raise awareness of the impact of sexual assault. The red flags with the message of “got consent?” was installed this week just south of the Petro Hall entrance at MSU Billings. Each of the 360 flags represent 10,000 individuals sexually assaulted each year in the United States.