Today: Jun 16, 2024

Women’s Center in full swing

Jourdan Duncan – Staff Writer

Student activist and graduate intern at the Women’s Center, Ebony McClease, enthusiastically indulges in the planning and programming of educational events and she specifically stresses the importance of a new program called “Politics of Women’s Bodies.”

“It focused on the whole election and how women’s bodies this election have been more politicized than it’s ever been as far as the thought that they can ban birth control when in fact women only make up 17 percent of congress,” McClease said. “That’s scary because it makes you think, who is really making the decisions about women’s bodies and why are our bodies somebody else’s business?”

The month of October marks the celebration of many causes, including Domestic Violence Awareness, which is conducted by one group on campus each academic year—the Women’s Center. There are a series of events that take place that include informative sessions, open discussions, and student participant activities as well.

“These programs are done so that students can actually come in and understand,” McClease said. “I think a lot of times students just don’t know, so if they don’t educate themselves and go to programs or get involved, then they are going to continuously not know. It’s better to educate yourself by going to events then having to deal with the situation later.”

After she leaned forward, McClease addressed some of the programs that target the topic of sexual assault and the important meaning to grasp from it.

“What crosses the line talks about sexual harassment and sexual assault and how thin that line really is,” McClease said. “People think sexual assault is just rape and rape is a whole other category, so sexual assault can be something as simplistic as touching. People confuse sexual assault and rape and put them together when in fact you can sexually assault someone without ever penetrating.”

The Women’s Center provides a Sexual Assault Resource Team, also known as SART, for students who have encountered any form of discomfort or sexual assault after directly dealing with the campus police. According to the Women’s Center page located on the university website, SART is a team effort that supplies on and off campus resources to help any victim in their process of decision making.

McClease said it is important for students to take on their role in the community by taking action and voicing any kind of sexual assault that may occur in front of them.

“If you see something, don’t just walk away and that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to fight someone or jump in, but to at least say ‘that’s not OK’ would be really helpful,” McClease said. “If you said nothing and you heard someone was sexually assaulted, you would feel bad the next day, so before it gets there, be a community participant and make sure your fellow community member is okay and do not turn your back.”

Detective Torres said as a representative of the campus police since Jan. 2005, it is her duty to be on call 24 hours in case of a sexual assault occurrence.

“I work closely with the Women’s Center, judicial affairs, and residence life, but my first priority is always that of a police officer,” Det. Torres said. “And the confidentiality that’s involved with that so as soon as the victim comes forward I make sure that he or she, usually she, because that’s what it is most of the time, is safe and if she doesn’t want to talk to anybody else she doesn’t have to.”

Det. Torres said it was being a car salesman at the age of 18 that helped her make a connection to reading people and get into law enforcement, not just becoming a police officer.

“Sales can be the worst job, but it’s also the best way to learn about people, especially when it is your only income and you have to survive that way,” Torres said. “I really did learn how to read people and different cultures coming in and different backgrounds. It was such an eye-opening experience for me. I realized there’s not a lot of difference between the jobs. The foundation of the job is just that, it’s about people. It’s a people oriented industry and its customer service based.”

The Clery Act Crime Statistics for Southern show that in the past academic year, there have been four reported sexual assaults that took place on campus.

“I would like to see those numbers increase of the people that report to us,” Torres said. “It’s outrageous the amount of sexual assaults that actually occur and that we actually investigate, so that number is grossly low and I also respect the fact that it takes a lot for people to come forward and to talk about it and they are the most courageous people that I’ve ever met.”

As she leans back in her chair with great posture and the look of passion appears in her eyes, Detective Torres said she thinks she has the best job.

“The best part of my job is that without a doubt every single day I know that I’ve worked hard and that I’ve made a difference in the community,” Torres said. “But I know at the end of the day I put my head on my pillow and sleep well knowing that I’ve done the best that I can to make a contribution to society to make it a better place.”

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