Howard Students Hold Open Discussion About Sexual Assault to Raise Awareness

With the desire to help her fellow colleagues to bring awareness to sexual assault, Miss Bethune Annex, Tatiyana Lewis held a discussion titled, “Hurt People, Hurt People” on Wednesday night in the Bethune Annex. Bethune Annex is a dorm at Howard University in Washington D.C. This event was held in the seminar room with a focus on sexual assault on college campuses and in work settings.

Participants in the “Hurt People, Hurt People” on Wednesday night at Howard University- Contributed photo

“I recently just experienced it with a family friend two or three weeks ago…it really freaked me out, but then I took it as I want to help someone out,” Lewis responded after being asked her motive to hold the discussion.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 16 men are sexual assault victims on college campuses. Lewis, along with the other Howard Students, came together to discuss sexual assault on their campuses, workplace or internships, where several incidents have occurred.

The 90-minute discussion attracted about 15 Howard students in total. Three of the students were men and the discussion featured Dr. Erica Shirley, a clinical psychologist with the Howard University Counseling Service on campus. Due to  the intimate environment with limited attendees, the evening began with each student sharing their sexual assault experiences from either their own personal lives or from having friends who are survivors.

“Whenever peers get together with other students and they can relate to one another and also collectively talk about ideas such as how to move forward, I think that can be really powerful and beneficial,” said Shirley.

The #MeToo movement was a focus point of discussion and students gave their opinions on the movement, with most of their comments being overall positive. The positivity is in result of the attention and awareness the movement has given society; however, a few of the attendees felt like some of the hashtag users were only in it for attention or five seconds of fame.

Each student also gave their thoughts on what the title of the event “Hurt People, Hurt People” meant and their opinions on how the lingering effects of traumatic experiences can be carried on throughout a survivor’s life.

Dr. Shirley was able to answer any questions and concerns the students had regarding what exactly sexual assault is and how to deal with everything that comes after the assault.

“I recommend when a student feels ready to talk to someone….I would go to a confidential source such as the counselling center at Howard or Dr. McFadgion in the Interpersonal Violence Prevention Program to talk to them in a safe space about what they are feeling and what they want to do next,” said Shirley.

The discussion concluded with final thoughts about the state of sexual assault on the Howard University campus and what the university could possibly do to help the Howard community understand sexual assault better and prevent it from happening.

“I think that Howard should make it [more discussions about sexual assault] happen more and it shouldn’t be just up to the students to facilitate it,” said Lewis after what she believed to be a successful discussion.