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Sexual assault survivor advocate speaks to UW athletes

Anne Munch

Anne Munch -

Anne Munch, a professional speaker, trainer and consultant specializing in sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking, discusses how the "Making Connection" program would be beneficial to the UW community.

Photo by Nap Poshyananda

UW student athletes gathered at Alaska Airlines Arena on Tuesday evening for an informational training session on sexual assault and harassment.

The UW Women’s Center collaborated with the athletic department and the UW Title IX office to host the sexual assault and harassment trainings event. The informational presentation to the all student-athlete audience was led by Anne Munch, an internationally recognized speaker, trainer, and consultant specializing in sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking.

“Athletes are natural leaders who understand concepts of respect and integrity,” said Munch, who was also a college athlete. “I see this as an opportunity for them to use the skill sets they have and think in the context of how they can ensure their teammates and school are safe and acting in an ethical way.”

Munch added that societal perspective has influence on the way that assault and rape cases are handled. Apart from victims and offenders, a third party to sexual assaults is what Munch calls “the unnamed conspirator,” which is the societal attitude that tends to judge victim behavior. Munch remarked on the tendency for “Monday morning quarterbacking” — the tendency to analyze the actions of the victim, not the perpetrator.

“People distance themselves from ever thinking that they could be a victim,” Munch said. “And so people ask, ‘What did he or she, typically she, do? Because then I won’t do that, and then I’m safe.’”

According to the Justice Department’s 2008-2012 National Crime Victimization Survey, sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes, with 60 percent of assault incidents still going unreported.

“Women do not come forward when they are sexually assaulted because of the stigma attached to victims that puts the blame on them,” said Dr. Sutapa Basu, executive director at the UW Women’s Center. “We have to change that mindset.”

Munch added that many victims are concerned about their privacy and others blaming or second-guessing them.

“The challenge to the UW community is to create a climate and to set the tone that allows victims to safely report so that they can get the help they need,” Munch said.

According to the former attorney, most of the rampant victim blaming she has witnessed is usually directed at women. Tuesday’s training event, however, saw the participation of both male and female athletes.

Senait Habte, assistant director of the UW Women’s Center, highlighted the importance of an all-inclusive effort that does not leave men out of the equation.

“It’s not a women’s issue. It is a community issue — a human issue,” Habte said.

Students who attended found the training session informative. Damore’ea Stringfellow, a freshman wide receiver on the UW football team, reiterated the importance of mutual consent when it comes to intimacy, as emphasized in Munch’s presentation.

“It’s important to realize that it’s not okay to continue just by the fact that someone says ‘no,’” Stringfellow said.

This is Munch’s second time visiting the University of Washington. In 2012, more than 400 students attended Munch’s presentation on sexual assault organized by the Women’s Center in partnership with the gender, women & sexuality studies department, the UW Police Department, and SafeCampus.

Reach reporter Naqiah Azhar at news@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @naqiazh

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