Advocates for Prevention of Sexual Assault Voice Need for Change

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COLUMBIA - As the University of Missouri Board of Curators prepares to release its findings into the sexual assault and suicide investigation of a former MU student athlete, a former NFL player and U.S. Senator spoke Thursday about ways to prevent sexual assaults and better ways to report them.

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Don McPherson Visits Columbia College

About 50 people attended a lecture Thursday night by Don McPherson. McPherson, a former NFL player turned feminist advocate, spoke to the crowd in Launer Auditorium at Columbia College.

He explained to the crowd of mostly women how sports teams prepare for worst case scenarios by talking about possibilities before they happen on the field. He said when things go wrong, the team knows how to communicate with each other. He said the same should be for social issues, like violence against women.

McPherson said too often scare tactics and prevention language are used to talk about sexual assault and domestic violence. Instead, he said these issues need to be part on a continuous conversation.

"Men have been left out of the conversation around prevention of violence against women," he said. "Very often we say it's a women's issue and therefore put all the responsibility on women to address the problem."

He said men need to be a greater part of the conversation because they are perpetrators of the majority of domestic violence.

"Part of the problem is the only time we talk to men about issues of violence against women, whether domestic violence or sexual assault, is usually after something bad has happened," he said.

McPherson said he hopes to change that by helping change the conversation from reactionary to ongoing when it comes to issues surrounding violence against women.

Thursday's talk, entitled "You Throw Like A Girl," focused on language and semantics surrounding gender. For example, he said the phrase "you throw like a girl" transmits a substandard expectation of women's abilities in sports.

McPherson played for the Philadelphia Eagles and Houston Oilers, before moving to Canada to play in the Canadian Football League. McPherson travels nationally advocating for the prevention of sexual and domestic violence.

Claire McCaskill Praised the McPherson's Visit

While McPherson combated education and paradigm shifts, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, attacked the issue legislatively.

She said she hopes to understand the process universities are using currently so she can propose future legislation that strengthens the enforcement of Title IX and the Clery Act.

McCaskill said education about women's issues are imperative to change. She said she believes continued stigma surrounding sexual assaults on college campuses leads to many unreported cases.

"I think there are too many young women that if they're assaulted they spend too much time worrying they did something wrong," she said. "Did I drink too much? Was I with the wrong person? Did I stay too late at the party? We've really got to get information out there."

She said she believes the number of reported sexual assault cases on college campus is drastically lower than the number that actually occur.

She cited the ongoing conversation surrounding the death of former MU swimmer, Sasha Menu Corey, as an example of the lack of understanding how much oversight universities have over sexual assault cases. McCaskill praised UM System President Tim Wolfe for his work following the Menu Corey investigation.

"I think that's a great step forward of raising the awareness of this problem. Now we've got to make sure we have the services in place not only on the Mizzou campus but every college campus in Missouri and across the country."

She said the death of Menu Corey was tragic, but it may spark greater change.

"I do think the investigation now is thorough," she said. "I do think that her tragic death will cause some significant reforms to occur so hopefully she will not have suffered in vain, that we will make some basic changes in the way this crime is handled."

Don McPherson said he agreed with the idea to nationalize the way assaults are reported.

"There does need to be a standard," McPherson said. "There needs to be a uniform reporting system, a uniform understanding of what's going on campuses."

The MU Board of Curators is expected to release its finding into the university's handling of the Sasha Menu Corey case Friday morning.

The alleged sexual assault and subsequent suicide of the swimmer in 2011 continues to fuel ongoing conversation regarding assault on college campuses.