April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month
By Kenedy Williams, Staff Writer
During the month of April, the University of Alaska Southeast participated in Sexual Assault Awareness Month, with the theme of “Building Safe Online Spaces Together.” Several events were hosted on campus that brought a focus to Sexual Assault Awareness.
Title IX is a federal law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in educational institutions receiving federal funding. The law can apply to athletics, sexual harassment, admissions, financial aid, academic matters, career services, counseling services, medical services, hiring, and employment. Title IX protects the right to be free from sexual misconduct for all members of the UAS community, guests, and visitors. The UAS Title IX office provides a variety of emergency services and confidential resources. Through the Title IX office, you can file a report or receive training as an employee or student.
All are welcome at the UAS Title IX office on campus, located in the lower level of the Novatney building in room 103. Anyone can stop by, according to Ryan Wark and Meg Bergerud, the UAS Title IX Director and Deputy Title IX Coordinator. Wark has been Title IX Director since May 2021, when he was promoted from deputy coordinator. His work varies a lot day to day, from incoming complaints to the use of various policies for cases. Wark said it requires flexibility and critical thinking.
“I think what’s unique about Title IX is you have such broad policy and dense decision making, but you also have the factor of human emotions and traumas and communicating with people who have much different experiences than you have,” Wark said.
Bergerud was hired as Deputy Title IX coordinator in January 2022. She earned a law degree from the University of Idaho College of Law in 2014 then worked as a public defender in Ketchikan for seven years. Bergerud’s work consists of answering daily phone calls and a wide variety of questions, as well as collaborating with other university departments and the Juneau community. During Sexual Assualt Awareness month she has been doing a lot of outreach activities and trainings.
“I like Juneau a lot, I grew up in Bethel Alaska so compared to such a small rural town Juneau feels like a big city, and I like it here a lot,” Bergerud said.
According to Bergerud and Wark, Title IX protects the equal rights of access to education for the entire UAS community. Wark said for students specifically, Title IX ensures the educational environment is a safe place, and it is not a cause of stress because of discrimination, sexual trauma, or retaliation.
“Report, report, report, report,” Wark said when asked what a community member’s first step to getting help should be.
Bergerud and Wark emphasized that the Title IX office has a “ton” of resources to help the community. Confidential resources are posted online, and they are available in trainings. All students have access to UAS counseling services, which is another resource for those who may feel uncomfortable reporting directly to Title IX. The law supports community members through housing, class scheduling, reaching out to professors, and a range of specific things they can do to help the individual person.
“We connect with AWARE, AWARE partnered with us for the Take Back the Night event and came to campus for Sexual Assualt Awareness trainings,” Bergerud said.
AWARE is an organization that offers a wide variety of support services to the Southeast Alaska community. AWARE’s mission is to provide safe shelter and supportive services for survivors of domestic or sexual violence as well as advocate for the social, political, and legal changes needed to eliminate oppression, gender violence, and violence against children. AWARE works to create a safe, equitable, and inclusive community that is built on healthy relationships which is sustained by education and advocacy, according to AWARE’s website.
According to Wark, the UAS Title IX office has a strong relationship with AWARE as it assists UAS with services from housing to advocacy for those who are survivors of sexual trauma. Victims of sexual trauma are supported by both Title IX and AWARE.
All members of the UAS community can report to the Title IX office and receive help from both organizations. If anyone is in need of support, reach out to AWARE via their crisis line at (907)-586-1090, file a Title IX report online, or contact the Title IX office at (907)-796-6371, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.