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Student calls for shift in focus on sexual assault

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), in 2020, nearly one in five women and one in 71 men in the U.S. have been raped at some point in their lives, including completed forced penetration, attempted forced penetration, or alcohol/drug facilitated completed penetration. 

Pittsburg State freshman in nursing and Spanish is encouraging education regarding sexual assault in all schools.  

“Since coming to college, I have been exposed to sexual assault more than I ever dreamed I would be,” McElroy said. “Without telling too much, I know friends who have been personally affected and I hate to watch what it has done to them. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. There’s a lot of improvement to be done in the area, so I started researching and ending up becoming pretty passionate about it.”  

To McElroy, the better option is to focus on preventative measures rather than post-assault recovery and support. While both are important, proper education and teaching of sexual assault will help prevent sexual assault, according to McElroy.  

“Prevention is the idea of solving the problem at the foundation of it, rather than trying to deal with the repercussions,” McElroy said. “Although I think that Sexual Assault Awareness Month has a great meaning.., it doesn’t quite do the job. I think we all need to do more than simply ‘be aware.’ Personally, I believe that sexual assault education should start much younger, K-12 schools, and should not be treated like the taboo it is treated as nowadays. If we can’t face the problem, we can’t ever fix it.”  

According to the NSVRC, female victims of completed or attempted rape report that it happened early in their life, with 81.3 percent, nearly 20.8 million victims, reporting that it happened prior to age 25. 

“This project really hits home,” McElroy said. “I know many girls and close friends who have been affected by sexual violence, and since starting this project I have had more girls open up to me about their stories. Knowing that I can hopefully change something for the future, if not for us then for our kids, makes me feel much more positive about the situation.”  

McElroy is pushing for more schools and universities to use the Green Dot Program.  

“The Green Dot offers programs that address age-specific approaches on educating and preventing these types of sexual violence,” McElroy said. “The Green Dot uses bystander intervention training to engage witnesses to intervene in situations that can be seen as high-risk for violence. This builds skills that teach strategies that increase the chances that individuals will actually engage and therefore creates a proactive approach. Proof of this can be seen in some Kentucky K-12 schools.”  

There are several resources that people can utilize.  

“The Green Dot has a website (https://alteristic.org/services/green-dot/green-dot-colleges/),” McElroy said. “I also encourage students to look at the current sexual violence prevention and education plan that the State of Kansas has in place and they can make the choice themselves if they think we are doing enough (https://www.kdheks.gov/rpe/). Lastly, students should also reach out to Stephanie Spitz, the Victim Advocate here on campus. She has so many resources to help both students and staff when it comes to sexual violence and she would be more than happy to answer any questions.”  

McElroy hopes to see a few changes in the future.  

“My goal is to first make people feel heard,” McElroy said. “Not enough victims feel heard, and everyone deals with it differently. Secondly, I hope that at some point more people can become aware of the changes we need to make in terms of sexual violence education and that someday the State of Kansas can reevaluate their plans.”  

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