Austin American-Statesman – March 23, 2017
The University of Texas is gearing up for the 87th annual “Round Up” weekend, an annual philanthropy event hosted by the Interfraternity Council at Texas, but some students and organizations are taking precautions to prevent sexual assault.
From Thursday night through Saturday, members of the IFC – which governs 27 Greek fraternities at UT – host charity events at their fraternity houses and parties with musical guests. Proceeds will benefit the B+ Foundation, a nonprofit organization with the goal of eliminating childhood cancer.
But according to the UT Interpersonal Violence Prevention Coalition, the weekend is also a time when the campus sees a spike in sexual assaults. The IPV Prevention Coalition organized “Round Up for Consent Week” to address sexual assault and focus on prevention strategies.
“Sexual assault is 100 percent preventable and we hope the education offered this week will remind you of the importance of consent, equip you to recognize dangerous situations around you and step in to be an active bystander,” said the coalition on the Facebook event page.
This consent week, which concluded Thursday, consisted of a screening of “Hunting Ground”, the award-winning film about sexual assault on college campuses, a storytelling event with the sharing of personal narratives, educational activities, and fundraising for sexual assault prevention and survivor organizations.
The IFC also sponsored Round Up for Consent Week and acknowledged the importance of awareness about sexual assault and the importance of consent.
Members of the IPV Prevention Coalition – including the groups Not On My Campus, UT Voices Against Violence, Steps for Survivors and the Texas Blazers – provided resources and information for UT students.
Sydney O’Connell, a co-founder of Not On My Campus, said the three red zones for UT students becoming victims of sexual assault are during bid week at the beginning of the fall semester, the Texas-Oklahoma football game weekend and Round Up weekend.
O’Connell said some of the primary risk factors include being a woman, being in a sorority, the use of alcohol and being a freshman or sophomore.
“The Interpersonal Violence Prevention Coalition was initiated during the fall semester by student body vice president Binna Kim,” O’Connell said. “This is the first year several organizations have come together for Round Up to address sexual assault.”
O’Connell said in the two years since Not On My Campus has been at UT, she believes the silence surrounding sexual assault has been broken but the conversation needs to continue.
Justin Atkinson of the Texas Blazers, a UT male honor society, said men have a responsibility to work to end sexual assault.
“There is a link between unhealthy masculinity and interpersonal violence and rape culture,” Atkinson said. “[Texas Blazers] want to be visible allies on this situation and we want people to look critically at the way young men are raised.”
Last year, the Texas Blazers started the Men Can End campaign to prevent and reduce violence.
According to an upcoming UT survey, 15 percent of female undergraduates at UT have been raped. The study is expected to be released by UT within the next few weeks.
UT President Gregory Fenves has publicly taken a stand against sexual assault and said it is intolerable.
Fenves told The Dallas Morning News that the silence surrounding the issue of sexual assault must be broken and the problems that exist at the university and in society must be faced.