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Westminster Conference Confronts Sexual Violence on Campus

Andrea Smardon

Westminster College is hosting its second annual conference on campus sexual violence. This year, the college is expanding the discussion to include dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking.

Conference organizer and Westminster general counsel Melissa Flores says Utah college students are just like others around the country. They’re young people often leaving home and their families for the first time, but in this culture, she says there is not much talk about sexual assault.

“We don’t have a lot of discussions with our younger kids about what’s appropriate, what’s not, what does consent mean? How does alcohol create situations? We don’t have those discussions,” Flores says.

She says there is also a gap in educating students on their individual rights.

“We’re not really discussing the rights that people have, and the fact that they can demand to be safe on their college campuses, and they can demand of their administrators and of their classmates to provide a safe environment.”

Flores says the two-day conference is a way to help encourage those discussions. She says this year, they’ve expanded the conference with support from colleges and universities around the state. The keynote speakers are talking about sexual violence in the LGBTQ community, how the Internet and fraternity culture fuel assaults on campuses, and how to engage men in these discussions. She says she’s already seeing evidence that students are more aware.

“What really is exciting for me is that people are learning their rights,” she says. “They know where to go if they feel like they’ve experienced sexual violence, dating violence, domestic violence, while attending our colleges and our universities.”

Flores says Westminster has seen an increase in sexual assault complaints recently, but she’s not discouraged. She believes students are learning their rights and how to get help.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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