One in Four alters male perceptions of rape

Thomas Celona

One in Four, a group of professional peer educators, spoke to students on Monday about sexual assault. As part of its nationwide tour, One in Four presented a talk titled “How to help a sexual assault survivor: What men can do.” After addressing students at 6 p.m. in the picnic area on West Campus, One in Four gave a second presentation at 8 p.m. in the Student Health Center.

“One in Four basically is committed to working towards a day when there is no more rape,” said Harris Ligon, a member of One in Four’s 2006-’07 National Peer Education Team.

One in Four gets its name from the statistic that one in four college women have survived a rape or attempted rape.

Ligon and fellow peer educators, Joseph Bertini, Evan Brignolo and Rami Fakhouri are traveling with One in Four’s annual nationwide RV tour.

During the presentations, the members said they were not there to lecture students or tell them that rape is wrong; rather, they want to help men understand the trauma rape survivors experience and to educate men on how they can help stop sexual assaults.

One in Four’s presentations started Villanova’s Healthy Relationships Week, which concludes tomorrow. The week, organized by Sexual Offense Support and sponsored by the University’s Center for Health and Wellness Education, had previously been called Sexual Assault Awareness Week, but the name was changed to include a wider range of issues and to reach out to students in a more creative way.

The goal of the week is “to promote communication and sexual assault awareness,” said Tiffany Gallagher, a health educator.

Other events included cyberstalking prevention workshops, information tables, palm readings and Empty Place at the Table, a dining hall exhibit aimed at recognizing the individuality of each survivor of sexual assault.

The week continues tonight with an aphrodisiac dinner and concludes tomorrow with the Clothesline Project, a display of T-shirts designed by Villanova students to honor survivors.

Healthy Relationships Week comes at a timely point in the school calendar, after two sexual assaults have been reported to Public Safety in the past two months. On Feb. 5 and March 17, two female students reported being sexually assaulted on campus.

“We can’t … discuss the specific cases,” said Vice President for Student Life Rev. John Stack, O.S.A.

However, he did describe the procedure that occurs when a sexual assault is reported. The student is first referred to Joanna Gallagher, Public Safety’s sexual assault investigator. Gallagher discusses the student’s options and suggests support programs on campus. If the student decides to file a report with Public Safety, Radnor Police is subsequently notified, even if criminal charges are not filed.

By law, all universities are required to report statistics for on-campus criminal activities. Villanova’s most recent report, which covers activity up to 2005, discloses that Villanova students reported two sex offenses in 2003, four in 2004 and five in 2005.

While Villanova’s number of reported sex offenses remains low, the report does indicate an increase over the same time that the national rate has been declining.

However, Stack and Stacy Andes, director of health and wellness education, do not feel that the numbers indicate an increase in sexual assaults; instead, they believe it represents an increased number of students who come forward and report what has occurred.

“The Center [for Health and Wellness Education] did not exist before 2003,” Stack said, noting that its programs have helped students who experience assault realize their options and decide how to best deal with the situation.

Along with Healthy Relationships Week, the Center for Health and Wellness Education coordinates programs throughout the year that provide prevention education.

“Awareness to first-year students is crucial,” Stack said, and for that reason, programs begin during freshman orientation.

Additionally, all incoming students partake in AlcoholEdu, an online alcohol prevention course. Both Stack and Andes stressed that alcohol is a factor in nearly all sexual assaults, so Villanova’s prevention programs are tied to alcohol education.

A sexual assault component will be added to AlcoholEdu in the fall, Andes said.

The goal of all these programs is to maintain a constant level of awareness on campus.

“Be proactive,” Ligon said when asked what was the most important thing a university can do to prevent sexual assault.

He said that effectively educating students ahead of time and creating a supportive atmosphere are the best ways to protect students.

Further information on the Center for Health and Wellness Education is available on its Web site, Villanova’s crime statistics are available at