Diné College promotes sexual assault awareness through conference
Event presented at Sen. John Pinto Library in Shiprock
SHIPROCK — All attention was on Danny Moore as he demonstrated a palm heel strike technique during a conference promoting sexual assault awareness on Thursday at Diné College's south campus here.
Moore, an instructor at Kim's Tae Kwon Do in Farmington, demonstrated other personal safety techniques in addition to talking to students about methods for defending against an attack.
"In a particular situation, you have to make the choice to defend yourself. You go in committed or you don't go in at all. Fear causes hesitation," Moore said adding that 85 percent of attempted rapes do not occur when the woman fights back.
Students remained near Moore as he spoke for an hour inside the foyer of the Sen. John Pinto Library.
LeToy Harrison, a counselor at the campus, said the conference was developed for students, and it was designed to educate students about sexual assault and its prevention and intervention.
This was the first time the conference has been held, and it was developed as part of the Sexual Assault Campus Resistance Education program at Diné College, or SACRED, which is a new initiative by the two campuses in Shiprock.
Diné College has six campuses on the Navajo Nation.
Harrison said statistics from the college show there were 37 cases of sexual assault reported between 2014 and 2016.
Officials are concerned that the number is actually higher but that some incidents go unreported.
"We want students to know how to report. We want students to feel safe on campus. We want them to know who to reach out to," Harrison said, adding that students in Shiprock are encouraged to call campus security or 911 when incidents occur.
Lavine Blackmountain, disability coordinator at the college, said with the help of local service providers, the event was designed to start a dialogue on sexual assault, including what constitutes sexual assault, when to report an assault and how to seek guidance and support.
"Yes, this is a sensitive topic. However, it's important that we recognize and support students in reporting such incidents," Blackmountain said.
Students received information from Sexual Assault Services of Northwest New Mexico, a nonprofit organization that operates programs focusing on sexual assault forensic examinations, rape crisis advocacy, therapy services and prevention, and community education.
The organization serves San Juan, Rio Arriba and McKinley counties and the Navajo, Ute Mountain Ute, Southern Ute and Jicarilla Apache lands.
Donald Sage, the organization's advocacy program supervisor, said the service completed sexual assault examinations for 122 cases in 2017. As of April 11, there have been 26 examinations, Sage said, adding the vast majority of sexual assault victims know their perpetrator and one way to break the silence is to report such incidents.
Student Laurel Antonio attended the conference because she wanted to learn about sexual assault and its impact on communities.
"It's very important on campus to be aware of your surroundings," Antonio said, describing one of the lessons she learned during the self-defense class.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.