Local leaders gather at UT to educate students on how to advocate lawmakers regarding sexual assault

The "Texas Association Against Sexual Assault reports one in five women and one in 16 men will be sexually assaulted while attending college.  Even more staggering is only 9% of sexual assaults on the University of Texas campus are even reported. Students and lawmakers are hoping to make change.

Local leaders, multiple lawmakers, and advocacy groups all gathered Thursday night at the University of Texas to talk to students from across the state regarding sexual assault and bills currently going through the legislative process. They are hoping to help the students learn how they can step forward and be a part of the solution to ending campus sexual assault. Former Senator Wendy Davis was one of those who spoke at the event, “There's so much work to be done to make sure that when students are coming forward with legitimate claims of sexual assault that they are being heard, that their cases are being addressed and that we are not protecting their assailants but we are doing everything we can to create a real safe campus for our students.”

The event was organized by Davis’ non-profit “Deeds Not Words” according the organizations Facebook page it’s “A dynamic community with a can-do spirit that inspires young women to take action and be the change-makers.”

Davis along with many others who spoke at the event and are hoping to educate students from across the state on how to advocate the legislature on issues important to them relative to campus sexual assault.  “We want to make sure we demystify the process of showing up at the Texas Capitol and testifying and help people understand,” Davis said.

Senator Kirk Watson also spoke at the event; he has filed legislation addressing significant legal questions about what constitutes consent for sexual activity. “No means no, but the absence of yes also means no. We are going to have to work and make a difference to change culture,” he said.  He also has other related bills protecting victims and witnesses who report sexual assault.

There are currently nine bills in the 2017 legislative session geared toward sexual assault and protecting victims. “College campuses ought to be a place where our students are safe, and they feel safe, and I think these bills will help with that,” Sen. Watson said.

But it will take more than just Senator Watson and Wendy Davis to get these bills turned into laws. “On certain pieces of legislation a single voice can sway how that legislation goes. People are listening and if you're ever going to bring about change, you may lose a vote every now and then but if we're ever going to bring about change, we have to show up, and we have to communicate,” Sen. Watson said. Davis added regarding advocating lawmakers “That building belongs to every single one of us, the people who are there work for us and it should be our expectation and our right that they will hear the things we care about and they will act on them.”

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