Wardenburg promoting sexual assault awareness at CU Boulder

The Wardenburg Community Health Center is promoting a sexual assault awareness campaign encouraging people to respect an individual’s sexual consent.

CU students and staff can see Wardenburg’s public announcement fliers as they walk through campus buildings. Many say messages like “Just because they’re not saying No! No! No! Doesn’t mean they’re saying Yes! Yes! Yes!”

“We are playing off a campaign that was designed by Edmonton, Canada in a police department,” said Teresa Wroe, a program developer with Wardenburg’s community health division. “We really like the approach and we saw that the message was an important shift in how we talk about sex assault and it really fit with our perspective. There the campaign was titled ‘Don’t be that Guy.”

Some factors within Canada’s campaign were problematic for the CU campus.

“Don’t be that guy’ seemed a little too soft and other students thought it was too negative — that it was generalizing men as bad guys. So we decided to take that out,” Wroe said. Wardenburg’s fliers also have black backgrounds instead of ones with “provocative” images like Canada’s.

“We want it to be a positive message about consent and people having the right to make consent,” Wroe said. “We just didn’t want distracting texts. We know that sexual assault is a problem on campuses across the nation, and CU Boulder is no exception. We know it’s a problem. We did about eight different focus groups with undergraduate students and it tested really well.”

CU graduate student Jaclyn Hernandez, 31, said the fliers could potentially be a move toward stopping some cases of sexual assault or rape.

“It’s a bad thing, it’s horrible, and I think we need to take the steps we can to prevent it,” Hernandez said. “It sounds like an actual step that someone is taking. Getting at the issue of why someone is going to abuse somebody, that is much different than getting at the perpetrator.”

Hernandez said students have to be safe as they go out to places like the Hill, and that the ads can only accomplish so much.

“I think if we knew what caused an offender to sexually abuse and we knew how to prevent it, I guess that would be pretty impressive,” she said.

Several people on campus share Hernandez’s belief that there is a lack of education about sexual consent and public safety.

“It’s a concern that a lot of students have,” Wroe said. “The focus groups said, ‘Yes, this message is really needed on campus.’ The minute you walk into a party, somehow there is an assumption that you are there sexually.”

Wardenburg budgeted about $600 for the campaign, according to community health division manager Robin Kolble.

“It is just the cost of printing. We have volunteers that hang them up through buildings,” Kolble said. “A lot of them get taken down and stolen and that’s OK. People want to share that message with others.”

The campaign has been targeted at both returning students and freshmen.

“We started it in the first or second week of school, so just in September,” Kolble said. “We are trying to bring it into student’s awareness when they get here. In high school, you know everybody and when you get here and party, you don’t.”

Sexual assault and the need to be aware at parties are also addressed during orientation, she said.

“I know there’s a lot of word out there — don’t go alone, bigger groups are better,” Moses Hunter, an 18-year-creative writing major, said.  “I would say [sexual assault] has an increased risk when you involve alcohol or drugs.”

In addition to the campaign, Wardenburg has been teaming up with other resources on campus for victims.

“We work really closely with Office of Victim Assistance, so we talked to them about the campaign,” Wroe said. “They were comfortable with it, and our allies on campus like the Women’s Resource Center thought it was a great idea.”

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Mary-Lynn Elliott at Marylynn.elliott@colorado.edu.

Mary-Lynn Elliott

Mary-Lynn Elliott is a sophomore at the University of Colorado preparing to study journalism. Many would know her as May. In her free time, she writes, sings, draws and drinks coffee. She is obsessed with New York City and hopes to be a columnist and comedian one day. Contact Staff Writer Mary-Lynn Elliott at marylynn.elliott@colorado.edu, twitter.com/@Mayelliott_

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