Sexual Assault barriers discussed Wednesday


Chandler Farris, wife of event host Bettie Mattison and medical student at University of Illinois Chicago, discusses how sexual assault impacts some of the patients she sees.

By Lindsey Salvatelli

DeKalb | A discussion about some of the barriers women of color face when reporting sexual assault prompted attendees thoughts about how culture could play a role.

Graduate student Bettie Mattison hosted the event after coming to the realization not many discussions about sexual assault were happening and she wondered if it was different across cultures.

“I wanted to create a space to talk about the possible reasons why people don’t talk about sexual assault and see if there are other people who feel the same way we feel,” Mattison said.

She said she would like to continue holding such programs and is considering putting on conferences for the American College Personnel Association and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.

“I’m willing to share this with whoever is willing to listen,” Mattison said.

Mattison, wearing a black shirt with the word “women” written in nine different languages and jeans for Denim Day, an international call to bring attention to sexual assault that’s honored every April 25, led the discussions by asking attendees their opinions about why people may be hesitant about reporting sexual assault.

After asking attendees to close their eyes and take a few breaths to “prepare for the conversation,” she asked the first question, “Does anyone have any idea why people don’t talk about sexual assault?”

The tables were lined with oversized papers with quotes written in black ink that said, “In my family’s culture, we don’t talk about stuff like that” or “People feel like we’re the model minorities. Like we don’t have problems, too.”

Attendees used the sayings posted around the table to elaborate their points or mention how it made them think about different scenarios victims may face.

“Honestly a lot of things I’ve overheard, some of them are things I’ve thought myself,” Mattison said.

She said a lot of conversations she’s heard about sexual assault tend to minimize the offense.

Shaunda Wilson, NIU Campus Police officer, said people don’t accept the blame when things are stolen or lost, but when it comes to sexual assault, victims often blame themselves. Wilson said people need to change the language of sexual assault and how they think about it.

“When it comes to [reporting] sexual assault, it’s almost a whisper,” Wilson said.

She said victims of color typically only come forward if they know an officer well enough to bring it to them.

Mattison provided attendees with campus resources to contact if they need help handling a sexual assault issue, which included Wilson,Rob Williams, NIU Campus Police officer and Shana Ware, Counseling and Consultation Services advocacy services coordinator

Graduate student Sean Vinson said he wanted to attend an event that focuses on issues black women face because it’s important to him.

“I’m a man of color, and the issues of women of color are my issues,” Vinson said.