A&M and UT students work to change sexual assault reporting

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Photo Credit: Justin Kong | Daily Texan Staff

A group of Texas A&M students are trying to raise awareness about sexual assault on their campus by changing the way it’s reported. More than 100 miles away, UT-Austin students are trying to implement the same reporting system on their own campus.

The A&M students are developing an app called the Lotus Protocol, which allows any survivor of sexual assault to report the assault. The survivor can choose to remain anonymous, and the postings are available for the public to see.

While sexual assaults are common on college campuses, their full extent can remain unknown because the assaults are not often reported, said Helen-Marie George, an A&M student and co-chair of the Lotus Protocol ambassador system.

“Sexual assault is a very prevalent issue people don’t really pay attention to,” George said. “It’s typically not reported because people fear retaliation, and on the campuses, they typically take the side of the perpetrator and not the victim.”

Four UT students decided now was the right time to bring the app to UT’s campus: Nkele Nkele, Vernon Marsh, Chikodi Merenu and Kasim Kabbara.

“Sexual assault and rape is something that’s not really talked about a lot, and a lot of people don’t know how prevalent it is on this campus,” chemistry senior Marsh said. “I think this would be a way to kind of show the entire UT community just how much of a problem this is on our campus.”

The UT students are helping the A&M team come up with more ideas for the app and are discussing how to make it more effective, said Nkele Nkele, an international relations and global studies senior.

“Everything surrounding the issue of sexual abuse is not really talked about in public light,” Nkele said. “Us, as black men, wanted to do something that would be positive.”

A portion of the app is designed to collect data in order to better understand how sexual assault relates to campus lifestyle, said Gentill Abdulla, an A&M student and CEO and founder of Ciaspora, the parent company of the Lotus Protocol.

“Currently, with campus sexual assault, there’s a lot of victim-blaming going on,” Abdulla said. “Essentially what we are creating is a wall for survivors to speak about their stories and give them back their voice … while developing meaningful statistics.”

A petition was created by UT and A&M students to make this initiative an active part of both campuses’ cultures. More than 500 people have signed the petition, and Abdulla said his team is in the process of showing it to A&M officials in hopes of making the Lotus Protocol a staple way of reporting sexual assaults at A&M.

Abdulla said they are aiming to release the app in the fall and encourage any college students to advocate bringing it to their campus.

Marsh said he believes this initiative is a step in the right direction.

“We all think that complacency isn’t acceptable, this conversation needs to be had, this issue needs to be addressed and it needs to be heard by all of campus,”  Marsh said. “And I think this protocol is a good first step.”

Editor's note: Kasim Kabbara, a member of the UT students group, is on staff at The Daily Texan.