North Texas Daily

UNT to hire new sexual assault advocate

UNT to hire new sexual assault advocate

March 04
20:37 2015

Paul Wedding / Senior Staff Writer

Interviews for three candidates for the newly created position, Assistant Director for Crisis, Student Advocacy and Violence Prevention will begin at the Greek Life Center starting March 9.

The assistant director will help students through sexual assault or partner violence, make them feel safe and advocate for survivors while educating students on violence prevention.

The candidates are Mona Muro, Renee LeClaire and Karla Irenas-Itotia.

Each candidate will give a presentation on bystander education and the best program for UNT to adopt. The chosen candidate will take their position in April, which is sexual assault prevention awareness month. The position was presented by dean of students Maureen McGuinness last October.

“It is best that as an institute, we have someone that can reach out,” McGuinness said.

Research shows that sexual assault is the most underreported crime. One in five women are sexually assaulted in college nationwide, as well as one in nine men, McGuinness said.

More than 5,000 forcible sex offenses were reported by college campuses in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

However, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that the actual number of offenses is estimated to be at least six times higher.

This is another step by UNT to adhere to Title IX, a federal civil right that prohibits sex discrimination in education and aims to protect students from harassment.

U.S. senators are currently trying to pass the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, a bill that would further protect students and boost accountability and transparency at colleges and universities.

Committee member and child welfare program coordinator Cassidy Baker said she was a social worker prior to coming to UNT.

“I saw first-hand the value of a supportive, compassionate and knowledgeable advocate who could work side-by-side with someone who has experienced this type of violence as they navigate through the criminal justice system,” she said.

The assistant director would also speak to professors and housing, attend hearings, make referrals to community resources, lead support groups and make themselves as visible to students on campus as possible.

“My hope is that we are able to hire a person who is willing to do whatever it takes to provide comfort and guidance to any student who may have been victimized,” Baker said.” Experiencing the trauma is hard enough, but survivors have shared with me that the aftermath and recovery is many times just as painful. The person in this new position can provide hope as the student embarks on the healing process.”

Communication design sophomore Avery Foshee believes it is a good thing that UNT will have an advocate.

“I think it’d be beneficial because it’s important to have someone that is specifically focuses on that area,” she said.

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