Hollins University's CASA and SARA Roanoke team up to bring awareness for campus sexual assault

1/4 women and 1/16 men experience sexual violence while students in college

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. - Experts say 1 in 4 college age women and 1 in 16 men experience sexual violence on campus.

Although there's a nation-wide push to raiser awareness about the growing problem, some students say if they were assaulted, they wouldn't feel comfortable reporting it.

"There's so much about people not believing what's going on, and I think that's hard especially in time of trauma you want to be believed," said Cat Flayhart, a freshman at Hollins University.

The Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CASA)  at Hollins University  and SARA Roanoke are trying remove the stigma women feel when they become victims of sexual violence.

"I think it's something that we sweep under the rug that we don't talk about and I think that puts survivors in a very vulnerable  position," said Ashley Farmer, chair of the Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Advocates held a screening of the "The Hunting Ground", a documentary that presents  stories of college aged victims of sexual violence hoping to bring more awareness.  Afterward, organizers held a discussion in a effort they say to destroy myths and discuss ways to change the cultural issues behind sexual assault.

"If we start with something as simple as believing survivors stories when hey come forward, showing them empathy and respect instead of analyzing their every move that lead up to the assault we will change that culture," said Kelsey Harrington, director of community engagement for Sara Roanoke.

Students say when the culture changes they will be more comfortable coming forward.

"It also depends on the people older than us on how their response is going to be to us reporting it. because even if where comfortable with what we're doing. They're not necessarily ready to listen," said Flayhart. 

One of the other problems  with coming forward students say is university staff is required to report incidents to administration. What students like about CASA and SARA Roanoke Is everything remains confidential, and they can get the support they need.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are also working to end sexual assault in schools across the country.

The Campus Accountability and  Safety Act was first brought to Congress in 2014.  It's been reintroduced this year.  If passed, it would give more resources to schools, increase law enforcement and change the way many schools handle sexual assault cases.

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