In acknowledgement of sexual assault awareness month, WVU’s Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion held a series of events to raise awareness about sexual assault on campus.
Akeya Carter-Bozman, prevention specialist at the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, encourages students to get involved in prevention work in any way they can.
“It’s not rocket science,” Carter-Bozman said, “It’s not anything huge we have to do, it's the small things we do to keep our campus community safe and keep it inclusive and equitable for all people.”
In her prevention efforts, Carter-Bozman runs educational campaigns throughout the year to teach students about sex, consent and healthy relationships. She is also the lead educator and curriculum developer for the Peer Advocate Program.
Instead of purchasing a “canned curriculum,” Carter-Bozman uses an evidence-based curriculum based on real student experiences.
“We look at, ‘What are the trends on campus? What are the issues our different students are facing?’” Carter-Bozman said.
Carter-Bozman uses traditional talk, training and workshop styles as well as interactive hands-on activities to ensure that students can apply and understand the information being taught.
In response to the one of the University’s sexual assault awareness events, some students took to social media to express their feelings that WVU was not doing enough to handle sexual assault on campus.
Carter-Bozman acknowledged these comments but also pointed out a lack of participation in her prevention workshops.
“We need students to actually participate in these trainings, and now I know they’re Zoomed out because Zoom has got us all tired,” she said. “But even when we were in-person, attendance was lacking; but then when things will happen, students will want to be in an uproar.”
After reading the same comments, Luna Lauther, a freshman arts multi-disciplinary studies student, decided to create a Google form for students to share their own stories about sexual assault and about other problems they have faced in their time as students.
“I was tired of just feeling extremely angry about it. I felt I might as well put this anger to use instead of just letting it swirl around in my head until I do something bad I guess,” he said.
Lauther described his response to the University’s post about the flag display.
“I saw the post on Instagram, and I was like, ‘Okay what are these flags gonna do? They’re just a representation of every time you failed someone,’” he said.
Lauther’s form received 161 responses at the time he was interviewed. According to Lauther, 77 responses were people sharing their own stories, and 84 were people signing in support.
“From my own personal experience, it’s difficult to just publicly express your own traumas, and even though I have it set that you can be completely anonymous, that story is still out there, and it’s just hard to share that publicly,” he said.
Lauther said that while reading comments about sexual assault pushed him to create this form, the focus of his project is not limited to stories about sexual violence and discrimination.
“It’s more of ways that the University has failed its students,” Lauther said. “Most of the reports I’ve received were about total neglect of mental health. Like, I’d say that about 20 of them are about anything else, about 60 are about mental health.”
Lauther pointed to circumstance as a potential reason for this breakdown. He noted an increase in responses about mental health after the death of Ben Pravecek, which occurred on April 16.
Moving forward, Lauther plans to work with members of the student government who have reached out to him to come up with a course of action once he has finished collecting responses.
“The best case I can imagine at the moment is to be able to present it to higher-ups at the University," he said. "I don’t know exactly who that would be.”