University Leaders Say Increased Reports of Sexual Violence Are a Good Sign

New data shows that more students are reporting sexual assaults on college campuses across Texas, including the University of North Texas, Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas at Arlington. But administrators say those higher numbers may actually be a good thing.

Support is on display on the UTA campus right now. Turquoise wooden cutouts, known as "silhouettes," are clustered on campus, representing the millions of victims of sexual violence in America.

And a row of T-shirts hangs outside the student center, marked with messages of strength from survivors.

"When other people read about them, they either relate or they become more aware of it," said UTA freshman Hoa Lee. "Some people will speak up because other people are speaking up about it."

That's just what UTA administrators are hoping for, and it's why Heather Snow — associate vice president and dean of students — believes an increase in reports of sexual assault on campus is a good thing.

"I am reassured, when I see the numbers go up, it lets me know that students know, 'OK where do I go when I find myself being victimized?'" Snow said.

Statistics show that one in four college-aged women will experience sexual violence, so administrators know these cases are still vastly under-reported.

"We want them to know that we're here for them, that we have resources and support," Snow said.

UTA's Relationship Violence and Sexual Assault Program has been educating students and staff on the resources available to victims since 2007.

Just last year, the university added a peer advocacy program in the residence halls, letting victims report incidents to a trained fellow student.

UTA senior Raegan Herbert worked with the program as a resident assistant (RA).

"And that was really great, because it was someone that you knew, someone that you interacted with on a day to day basis," Herbert said.

She believes it's up to students to watch out for each other and take a stand.

"Just coming forward and saying, 'Hey, this isn't OK, and this isn't what we want on our university campus,'" Herbert said.

UTA also started a program called "Bringing in the Bystander" to encourage students to step in and help if they see a potentially dangerous situation.

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