Eastern New Mexico University’s student government called an emergency meeting for students Tuesday night as a means to curb sexual assaults on campus.
The Associated Students of ENMU Senate hosted the meeting with ENMU Senate Vice President Joshua Alvarez Favela saying the purpose of the meeting was to improve educational awareness for sexual assault.
“The number of cases each school year are increasing in New Mexico,” said Favela. “Our message tonight is to show the state of New Mexico that the student body of Eastern New Mexico University is and will take a stand against sexual assault on college campuses.”
Sens. Anne Harding and Kris-Ann Walters spoke during the meeting about the importance of using the BlueLight telephone system.
“I think they would be a symbol and a sign of the university proactively taking a stand for promoting student safety,” Harding said.
“The issue of sexual assault is an absolutely important aspect within college campuses,” Walters said. “I believe you are dealing with students who are away from home where there is to some extent limited protection, and I believe that this is something that needs to be addressed more.”
Walters said she hopes for more efforts to go into advertising resources for sexual assault victims that are readily available to them, while making sure cases are treated individually instead of approaching each case in a similar way.
Students who have been victims of sexual assaults also spoke about their experiences at the meeting.
“I never knew how real this was until it was me,” Rhiannon Barela said. “I’m here tonight to let you know that it can happen anywhere to anyone at anytime, and I thought I could do it on my own. I don’t want your sympathy. I don’t want your pity. I want your support. You’re not a statistic. We’re not a statistic. Don’t call me a victim. Don’t call me a survivor. I’m an initiator of change, and I will do everything that I have to do to make sure that I see that.”
Barela praised ENMU’s efforts to raise the issue at a student senate meeting.
“With this (meeting), they’re taking the steps necessary to do the right thing,” she said. “If I have to carry the burden so someone else won’t have to then I will. People need to know that it is a very real thing. It’s important to speak out and show support.”
ENMU student Marina Merritt also spoke to the senate about supporting sexual assault survivors.
“I stand here with these survivors and I stand up to my attacker and I stand up here for those unable to stand up for themselves,” Merritt said. “Look at all these survivors here.
You are not alone. You are not a victim; you are a survivor. It doesn’t matter what you were wearing or if you were drinking or if you said yes before. No still means no. I don’t care if I have to tell my story to the entire country. I will not stop until no actually means no.”
In a Portales News-Tribune story on sexual assault published in April, ENMU Police Department Chief Brad Mauldin and Uniform Crime Report (UCR) records said that ENMU has only had one to two sexual assaults reported per year the last few years, but Mauldin also stated he believes many of them are not reported.
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