‘Dating Game’ a way to educate about sexual assault

By Lindsay Carroll

The Dating Game, once a favorite television show in the ’60s and ’70s,…

The Dating Game, once a favorite television show in the ’60s and ’70s, now might help prevent rape.

Sexual Assault Services, a part of the University Counseling Center, will host an event Thursday using the classic television show as a model for building healthy relationships. The event will be held in 121 David Lawrence Hall at 7 p.m.

It’s the first ever Dating Game sponsored by the department for its annual Sexual Assault Awareness Week, Mary Ruiz, coordinator of the program, said. Ruiz said she and some colleauges came up with the idea for the game.

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Student Government Board President Charlie Shull, Panhellenic Council President Nicole Cioffi and basketball player Chase Adams will be contestants on the show. Students who participate in the game could win a free dinner for two — although they won’t have to go on a date with the contestants.

The questions will try to demonstrate healthy communication and relationships. Ruiz wanted the event to demonstrate how to build healthy communication between two individuals — as a lack of which serves as one of the main causes of sexual assault.

“We’re promoting assertive communication in friendships, relationships and interpersonal interactions,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz said she thinks it’s more difficult to build healthy relationships in college than in other situations, but not impossible. Part of the problem is a culture of hooking up rather than dating, she said. Dating means a relationship is built on getting to know a person before having sexual relations,, and she hopes the Dating Game will promote that kind of relationship.

“A good relationship isn’t built on sex, it’s built on getting to know one another and respect one another,” she said.

Contrary to popular belief, sexual assault and rape don’t frequently happen between strangers. Most sexual assault occurs with someone a victim knows, Ruiz said.

One reason for this is that physical evidence can be difficult to collect in situations where the victim and perpetrator know each other, but also, “Society doesn’t want to believe … that the nice young man next door is capable of sexually assaulting or raping,” she said.

Educating students about being assertive and the importance of not making assumptions will help prevent sexual assault and confusion about consent, she said. And that responsibility falls on both men and women, who are both vulnerable to sexual assault, she said.

Although Ruiz said she hasn’t yet compiled statistics for this year, and last year’s weren’t readily available, the majority of sexual assaults occur off-campus and have female victims. Alcohol is involved in most cases, she said.

“Women need to be more aware of how much they drink — and men also do,” she said. Women become more vulnerable and men are “more likely to do something they wouldn’t normally do” under the influence of alcohol, Ruiz said.

Sexual Assault Services provides individual and group counseling for male and female students, as well as medical, legal and police support, according to the program’s website. Issues the program confronts include dating violence, sexual assault, harrassment and stalking, Ruiz said.

“The purpose of sexual assault awareness and all the events that take place throughout the year is to get the message across that sexual assault is an issue that needs to be confronted by both men and women,” Ruiz said.

The only way that can happen is with respect and good communication, she said. To prevent sexual assault, Ruiz gave the following suggestions:

—Know yourself. That makes it easier to say no.

—Be assertive.

—Know your limits with alcohol, and stick to them.

—Help your friends. This means looking out for your friends who could be victims as well as perpetrators.

You can visit www.saserv.pitt.edu for more information about Sexual Assault Services.