A recent survey of students at The University of New Mexico shows a majority of students believe UNM is doing a good job of educating, preventing and responding to sexual misconduct and assault. However, some students are still at a higher risk of being sexually assaulted than others.
According to a recent survey done by National Campus Climate Survey (NCCS), three groups of students including Hispanic, sorority and fraternity, and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) students are more likely to experience sexual assault.
“The LGBTQ community has been historically underrepresented in services for sexual assault,” said Alma Rosa Silva-Bañuelos, director of UNM’s LGBTQ Resource Center. “The dominant model of support has been for cisgender, heterosexual people. This has left out the lesbian, gay, bisexual, questioning, queer and transgender community.”
However, the NCCS did ask about behaviors that affect the LGBTQ community but did not represent the transgender community in the survey.
“The LGBTQ Resource Center is a confidential reporting site for all students, staff and faculty at UNM,” Silva-Bañuelos. “We hope to become more visible so that the LGBTQ community feels more comfortable to reach out for support after experiencing sexual violence. We want the LGBTQ community at UNM to know that they are not alone, we can advocate for the support someone might need and we honor all the intersections of identity.”
The LGB (lesbian, gay, and bisexual) community faces extremely high rates for sexual violence according to Frankie Flores, coordinator of Education Support at the LGBTQ Resource Center.
“According to the most recent CDC findings, 44 percent of lesbians and 61 percent of bisexual women experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, compared to 35 percent of heterosexual women,” Flores said.
Forty percent of gay men and 47 percent of bisexual men have experienced sexual violence other than rape, compared to 21 percent of heterosexual men. The seminal survey, “Injustice at Every Turn” reports that 64 percent of Transgender individuals have been sexually assaulted.
“The LGBTQ Resource Center is committed to lowering these numbers by fostering student groups that create safe spaces for individuals to discuss consent and what that looks like for people of varying identities,” Flores said. “We acknowledge that the intersectionality that people hold may prohibit conversations surrounding body autonomy, but we are determined to continue the conversation so that students may be in a position to receive education free from fear of sexual violence.”
Consent is an affirmative and informed decision to willingly engage in mutually agreed upon sexual activity. Consent requires a clear affirmative act or statement by each participant to each sexual act in a sexual interaction.
Relying solely on non-verbal communication can lead to miscommunications about one’s intent. Confusion or ambiguity may arise at any time during a sexual interaction. Therefore, experts say it is essential that each participant makes clear his or her willingness to continue at each progression of the sexual interaction.
“How to give and get consent in our interactions is essential to creating long-term, sustainable culture change,” said Lisa Lindquist, program manager for the Dean of Students office. “There are such differences in how primary and secondary education addresses healthy relationships, boundaries and sexual health so student’s familiarity with consent can really vary.”
The LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center provides comprehensive, thoughtful and direct education on rape culture, consent, healthy relationships and how we can all be involved in creating a consent culture.”
An alarming new trend experts are seeing is revenge porn. Revenge porn is the sharing of explicit photos or private videos that are posted to the Internet or distributed without consent. This act of spite and betrayal can subject the target to shame, humiliation and, in some cases, ridicule.
“New Mexico actually has a 'Revenge Porn' Law, meaning anyone who is not authorized to distribute or publish “sensitive images” can be prosecuted in criminal court,” said Caitlin Henke, program specialist for UNM's Women's Resource Center. “Consequences could be going to jail and having to register as a sex offender. The Women’s Resource Center is here to offer supportive resources and legal referrals to victims.”
Sexual assault is a term used to describe a wide range of forced and unwanted sexual activity, including kissing, exhibitionism, groping, and rape. Victims might be coerced into sexual acts through verbal or non-verbal threats or through the use of substances, such as alcohol or drugs. Sexual assault doesn’t always involve physical contact – acts such as voyeurism and exhibitionism can still count as unwanted sexual attention.
“At The University of New Mexico, we are working to educate our students on how to recognize what an assault is. Too often people make the mistake of equating it with only rape,” said Lindquist.
For additional resources, visit Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) or LoboRESPECT.