Virginia Tech community ramps up efforts to address sexual violence

A sign from a September protest against sexual violence at Virginia Tech.
A sign from a September protest against sexual violence at Virginia Tech.(Will Thomas)
Published: Mar. 3, 2022 at 11:52 PM EST
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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - “As a school, that’s a great first step. But there needs to be more things done,” said Lauren Willemin, a junior at Virginia Tech.

More to be done. That’s how many students across Virginia Tech feel about the issue of sexual violence on campus.

There were 19 reports of rape in 2021, 7 in 2020 and 5 in 2019 with one report of attempted rape that year, according to VT Police crime logs.

The fall of 2021 is also when VT announced a 21-person group to address the problem.

“We’re gonna do everything that we can to change that culture. To prevent it from ever happening. It’s a lofty goal, but that’s what we need to shoot for,” said Mark Owczarski, spokesman for Virginia Tech.

The 2022 Spring semester has already seen two reports of rape and one report of attempted rape, according to VT Police crime logs.

The Task Force is planning to use this semester to ramp up its efforts across campus.

“A second major thrust of the group is to really look at communications. How can we further educate, how can we further inform and how can we be open and transparent about very difficult issues,” said Owczarski.

Students have raised concerns over representation in the task force, as only 2 members are undergraduates.

“They only appointed two undergrad students, which kind of makes us wonder how much representation are we really getting with this work group,” Mary Weeks said back in November. Weeks is a sophomore and the treasurer of the United Feminist Movement at Virginia Tech.

“The 21-person Task Force began with the people who can make decisions and make changes at the university,” said Owczarski.

But the group is actively working with undergraduate students to hear their concerns.

“Last week there was a conversation hosted by one of the committees to talk about what students wanted to hear and get feedback,” said Carolina Bell, President of UFM at VT.

UFM organized protests on campus against sexual violence in the fall. Bell feels student representation is moving in the right direction.

“We’re getting there. A lot of these subcommittees have already been tasked with different things to do. We didn’t get a say in that, so that is where we want higher power.”

Bell now wants the fight against sexual violence to be clear.

“I would like to see a lot more transparency about what the different groups are doing and even just how members are chosen. I think it would be great to get even more students in on the subcommittees, because we have such a valuable insight and role in helping change for the better.”

VT leaders know this culture isn’t going to change overnight, but are committed to doing all they can to end it. The Task Force will publish a report of its findings at the end of the spring 2022 semester.

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