In recognition of National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the UCF community is encouraged to participate April 24 in Denim Day.
Denim Day started in Italy 20 years ago after a woman’s sexual-assault case was overturned because the Italian Supreme Court ruled that her tight jeans implied consent. Outraged by this decision, women in the Parliament wore jeans to show solidarity for the victim.
“I encourage everyone at UCF to wear their jeans on April 24 to recognize Denim Day,” says Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Elizabeth A. Dooley. “Join me in adding denim to our black and gold to show our support for survivors everywhere.”
Though UCF stands against sexual and relationship violence, the fact that they occur on university campuses and in our society cannot be ignored.
Prior to the launch of the campaign, UCF’s Title IX coordinator, Matt Ricke, said the Office of Institutional Equity, which oversees Title IX compliance and investigates sexual assault and harassment cases on campus, would receive some reporting but not the numbers that one would expect of an institution the size of UCF. The main reason for this is that most victims don’t report because they fear retaliation and/or that they won’t be believed.
That started to change after the campaign and the Let’s Be Clear website launched.
From July-December 2017, the Office of Institutional Equity received 50 reports of sexual assault, and from January-June 2018, OIE received 63 sexual assault reports in addition to reports of other forms of conduct, including relationship violence and stalking, which are not included in these numbers. Ricke says these numbers reflect allegations of sexual assault that occurred on campus and off campus, as well as cases where the respondent was not affiliated with UCF at all.
“I don’t think it was because more things were happening, but now we’re getting more of that information actually communicated to us. In particular, faculty and staff now know that they have a mandatory reporting obligation,” he says. “We see that as a positive thing because more people are aware that there are opportunities to get resources and support.”
Year 1 in Numbers
While those around campus may have seen Let’s Be Clear stickers in buildings, messaging on buses and shuttle stops, and videos during orientation, there’s been more to the campaign behind the scenes.
Abigail Malick ’10 ’12MA ’17PhD, Title IX deputy coordinator and training specialist, led 72 trainings in 2018 for faculty, staff, student employees and campus departments.
She says her office is creating a Let’s Be Clear online module for faculty and staff that dives a little deeper into coaching them how to address when someone discloses information. She says this training is critical because someone’s reaction is a huge factor in what happens next for a victim.
“Research tells us individuals who experience these type of crimes, victimization and incidences, when they do disclose, the first person that they disclose to can have a great impact of how they think about that event, who else they tell, if they seek out counseling or other resources,” she says. “If they’re blamed or ignored or feel invalidated, then they might feel like they shouldn’t be sharing that information with others.”
This is partly why UCF Victim Services expanded its communication system to include a text-message service in conjunction with the launch of Let’s Be Clear. The department’s advocates — which have long offered confidential support to students, faculty and staff — are on hand 24/7 to respond to questions about sexual or relationship violence through text (407-823-6868) or their phone hotline (407-823-1200).
In the first year, Victim Services receive more than 600 text messages through the line.
“There’s never a bad question.” — Christine Mouton ’98 ’01MS, director of UCF Victim Services
“We’re really trying to reach the students where the students are,” says Christine Mouton ’98 ’01MS, director of UCF Victim Services. “There’s never a bad question. But oftentimes texting is a gateway to a phone conversation. Depending on what that question is, it can be too much information to go over a text line. So our staff will tell the individual through text that if they call the hotline, ‘I’m the advocate that’s on call. I will answer the phone,’ and they can discuss the individual’s options and connect them to resources like emergency health screenings and counseling services.”
In addition to the success of the texting line, UCF Victim Services has seen positive results from its bystander-intervention initiative, Green Dot. The trainings empower bystanders to safely intervene if and when a situation arises.
“We are making sure that people understand we all have a level of social responsibility for each other, even if it’s a complete stranger. So we have been promoting this concept of no one can do everything, but everyone can do something,” Mouton says.
Future of Let’s Be Clear
Malick and Ricke say the next iteration of Let’s Be Clear for the 2019-20 academic year is focusing on educating the UCF community on consent and boundaries. They also want to continue working on paying special attention to populations that aren’t exposed to messaging and signage regularly seen and heard on the main campus, namely individuals on UCF Connect campuses and UCF Online students.
“Let’s Be Clear belongs to all of us.” — Matt Ricke, UCF Title IX coordinator
Campaign organizers say it will take every Knight to help enforce the university’s stance against sexual assault, harassment, stalking and other forms of relationship violence.
“Let’s Be Clear belongs to all of us. It’s a mutual obligation to create a campus environment free of sexual assault, free of relationship violence and free of sex discrimination,” Ricke says. “In order for us to do that, that can’t just be one person’s job. It’s got to be a concerted effort, all stakeholders, all in, all the time to make sure that we are creating that environment here.”
Let’s Be Clear: UCF stands against sexual and relationship violence. UCF Victim Services provides confidential advocacy and support to the UCF Community, 24/7. If you or someone you know has been impacted by crime, violence, or abuse, call a confidential victim advocate at 407-823-1200 or text 407-823-6868. Victims who want to report a crime can start by calling UCFPD’s non-emergency line at 407-823-5555. In case of emergency, call 911.