Addressing sexual assault with HOPE Council

HOPE and wellness council panel in front of a projection of the words
HOPE and wellness council panel in front of a projection of the words "Empowerment after Trauma.” Photo credit: Pamela Paredes.

Written by: Pamela Paredes

On Wednesday, April 24 at 4 p.m., HOPE Council and the Wellness Center hosted a Q&A panel for students and faculty to be educated on trauma with sexual assault.

They started by explaining what was going on the day of the event — Denim Day. Every year since 1999, people worldwide honor victims of sexual assault by wearing jeans to raise awareness. This stemmed from a case from 1992 of a driver instructor raping a young woman. The court ruled that the event between the instructor and the student was not rape, but consensual sex because she was wearing very tight jeans and he would have needed her help to take them off.

Afterwards, students and faculty began either submitting their questions anonymously or raising their hands to the four counselors in the panel: Emily Brumbaugh, Gwenaelle Couliard, Travis Hull and Lori Miller. 

One of the audience members asked how students should support victims of trauma and what students need to avoid saying to them. 

“Start by believing,” Brumbaugh said. “Frequently I asked, ‘what if it is a false report or what if they‘re making it up. The research does not vary that out. The highest research that I have seen on false reports is seven percent. Most of the time it is between two to three percent of the reports. If we start by believing them, we are more likely to get them the right help. It would be nice to have a timestamp on trauma … Let them go on their pace.”

Couliard added that people should be attentive to symptoms that occur when one suffers from sexual assault trauma. Some common symptoms that are expressed by the victim, according to Couliard, are having constant flashbacks of the event, loss of appetite, lack of sleep, zoning out and showing no emotion about what happened. 

“A lot of the times we get curious and want to know their story and we have to be careful with that,” Hull said. It is not the time to go into detail. We just need to know how much help we need to get them, but we don’t need to know all the details. Details will come out when they are ready.” 

All four counselors encouraged the public to become educated in helping those going through the trauma of sexual assault. They also emphasized the importance of going to the counseling center. 

They understand that there are many people who don’t feel comfortable receiving help, but they emphasized that talking to counselors and going to discussion groups available on campus are ways to take steps forward. 

For more information on the school’s resources, check out the Wellness Center and Counseling Center pages.