Sexual assault, unwanted sexual contact and domestic violence are problems that can happen to anyone, at anytime, at any place.
A discussion about the topic was held Wednesday, Oct. 26, in the University Center, led by Women’s Information Service, Inc. (WISE) program director Whitney Buffa and volunteer coordinator Jessica Bazan.
WISE is an organization located in Big Rapids that helps women and men who are victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, etc. All of its services are free and confidential.
According to a 2015 article by the Huffington Post, every day three women are murdered by a current or former male partner.
Volunteer coordinator for WISE and social work graduate student Jessica Bazan was a leader in the discussion. Bazan thinks that educating the masses about the problem is vital.
“I feel like speaking about things like domestic and sexual violence on a campus are important because it raises awareness,” Bazan said. “Sometimes there is an education piece that needs to be expanded on a little more; things that people don’t get specifically in classes. I was asked by a criminal justice student because he was saying that there was not any training specifically with domestic violence in his program and it’s a population that he will work with at some point.”
According to WISE, abuse can happen in any type of household or any type of relationship regardless of economic background or race. Sexual violence can be shown in many degrees, ranging from rape to stalking.
“There is a lot of misnomers out there; a lot of people don’t recognize nuances. You think of big terms like physical violence but you don’t think of other ways power and control is expressed in relationships,” Bazan said.
In addition to providing housing and counseling to people and students in need, WISE also works closely with law enforcement to be there for support in times of need.
“When we first meet a survivor, it tends to be at the hospital,” Buffa said. “We interact a lot through first responders. We are kind of the second responders. When the police get a sexual assault call, they call us.”
Ferris criminal justice freshman Morgan McCarty came to the discussion to expand her knowledge base.
“I decided to attend because I wanted to learn more about some of the things that I would encounter in my potential future career,” McCarty said.
According to a report from WISE, 80 percent of sexual assaults reported by women were perpetrated by family members or close friends.
“It can be people you know, that you trust and want to exert power over you. I’m sure by word of mouth the information will travel through campus,” McCarty said.
Ferris social work senior Remington Romanowski also attended to learn more about the topic.
“I’m part of the social work program and I think it is really important to continue to go to these kind of events to further my knowledge base. I think it was a very informative event, it was intimate because there weren’t a ton of people here, so I was able to get my questions answered,” Romanowski said.
Students can help with preventative measures to potentially dangerous situations by being aware of these possible harmful encounters and speaking up.
“Be alert and be a good friend,” Buffa said.
If you are in a dangerous situation, call 911. If you are in need of support, contact the WISE 24-hour hotline at 1 (800) 374-9473 or visit wiseagainstviolence.org. You and/or your organization can volunteer with WISE by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read more about sexual assault at Ferris, click here.