BLACKSBURG, Va. – University officials in Blacksburg responded Monday with what they’re doing to address the issue of sexual assault, after crime reports last week showed that the number of reported rapes at Virginia Tech doubled from six in 2015 to 12 last year.
Virginia Tech spokesperson Mark Owczarski said prevention has been a focus this year.
“Anything that we can do to help keep our students safe, to inform them we have no tolerance for this and to educate them about what individuals can do to help support others, prevent this from happening, is so important for us," he said.
It’s not a new problem.
“Sexual assault is an issue on every college campus in the country and Virginia Tech is not an exception to that. We take it very, very seriously because one is one too many," Owczarski said.
The university has made an online class on sexual assault mandatory for all incoming freshmen as of this semester. The class teaches students of the dangers, and explains the resources available for victims to report incidents.
Organizations have been holding awareness events for years, like Take Back the Night and the Clothesline Project that uses T-shirts as symbols. The police department offers defense courses.
“People are still afraid to talk about it," senior Irene Jenkins said. “Once it’s more accepted to have these conversations without the worry of offending someone, then that’s when change can really occur."
University officials say they want to create a climate where more students feel comfortable coming forward to report incidents.
"There’s a positive in the sense that if people do feel comfortable about reporting sexual violence and sexual assault, that’s a good thing. We don’t want victims of sexual assault to be unheard, to not get help," Owczarski said.
The online classes are open to anyone at the university.