One in five college-age women will experience rape during their college years, according to a study by New York University. Josh Jasper, president and CEO for the Riverview Center in Iowa, said he considers sexual assault a major health crisis in the United States and that it affects more people than cancer.
Monday night in Webb Hall, Jasper gave a presentation to a crowd of Emporia State students and professional health advocates about sexual assault. Part of Jasper’s talk was aimed at causes of violence.
“If you take away anything today, if you write anything down, let it be this – violence is a learned behavior,” Jasper said.
The number one place people learn to commit violence is in the home where they grow up, followed by school, television, the media, the internet, books and music. Before turning 13, a child will have witnessed 200,000 murders on television, Jasper said. He also said violence doesn’t start out as entertainment.
“It starts out over here, and the first time you see it, it’s shocking, but when you see it 50, 100 (or) 1,000 times, it starts to become normalized,” Jasper said. “Then one day you turn it on, and it’s no longer shocking. Now, it’s entertainment.”
Ashley Langdon, senior political science major, said that presentation made her more aware of the role popular culture plays in affecting people’s behavior and perception of the world.
“I was unaware of the way that violence affects us in little ways – how it can gain access into our lives,” Langdon said.
Jasper said the focus of his talk was primarily to encourage people to be “active bystanders.” He said that the key to preventing sexual assault is for people to take charge of the world around them, and be willing to interfere with a situation before it becomes a sexual or domestic violence issue.
He led the audience through scenarios of potential assaults and asked audience members what they would do to help prevent it. He also said sexual assaults are rarely committed by strangers, and that 90 percent of sexual violence is committed by an acquaintance, not a stranger.
“Domestic violence is not the stuff you see on billboards – it’s the stuff leading up to it,” Jasper said.
Missy Bane-Shelton, crisis director for Emporia SOS, said Jasper is a dynamic speaker who interacts well with crowds, and that the decision to have him speak was also influenced by his organization serving a population similar to that of the Emporia area.
“We liked Josh’s emphasis on the transition of thinking of someone as a victim to survivor, and it takes community awareness to think of something that way,” Bane-Shelton said.
Jasper began his career in working for the Los Angeles Police Department, providing counseling for domestic abuse survivors. Since then, he has been working as a sexual violence advocate, and speaks regularly to groups about sexual and domestic violence.