A four-part prayer service for sexual assault survivors ended Tuesday night, but that doesn’t mean the conversation at Baylor University is over.
A group of graduate students, graduates and local pastors hosted “A Space for Hope” on Tuesday night at Baylor’s Elliston Chapel.
“We want to end on a note that is hopeful, but that isn’t saying, ‘Well, the journey’s over now,’ or ‘Everyone needs to feel joyful,’ ” said Natalie Webb, one of the organizers. “We want to portray hope in a way that might feel joyful and happy to some people but might feel like putting one foot in front of the other for others.”
About 30 people attended the service, including Vice President for Student Life Kevin Jackson. It consisted of prayers and songs, and attendees made prayer beads and wrote prayers on note cards. Previous services focused on lamentation, silence and anger.
“We will not further silence our neighbor with platitudes or should-haves,” one of the prayers read. “We commit to hold their pain gently. We know we must continue to challenge the power dynamics in our world that make abuse prevalent, even when these dynamics and systems benefit us.”
Counselors and pastors were available for people wanting to talk.
“We’re hoping to make a turn toward hope and hold out a sense of hope for healing for survivors and hope for a better, less violent world,” said Kyndall Rothaus, pastor of Lake Shore Baptist Church. “But at the same time, we want to acknowledge it’s not like we can just automatically feel hopeful. Some of us aren’t hopeful yet, and we’re going to be honest about that, too.”
The anger-themed service March 15 was followed by a poetry event on the same topic at the Waco Hippodrome.
Baylor took criticism for mishandling reports of sexual assault when former football player Sam Ukwuachu was convicted of sexual assault in August. Shortly after the conviction, Baylor hired Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP to investigate how the university handles rape allegations.
Women featured in an ESPN “Outside the Lines” report claimed Baylor did not properly respond to similar allegations against former football player Tevin Elliott. Elliott was convicted on two counts of sexual assault in 2014 and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Community members gathered outside President Ken Starr’s house to express frustration about the shortcomings outlined in recent reports. It was led by Stefanie Mundhenk, who previously told the Tribune-Herald how Baylor mishandled her alleged sexual assault.
After the vigil, now-former student Cailin Ballard told the Tribune-Herald that Baylor police blamed her in October 2013 for her alleged sexual assault.
Hired in November 2014, Baylor Title IX Coordinator Patty Crawford has said she is dedicated to addressing reports of sexual assault. Her team determines jurisdiction issues and survivors’ needs after an assault is reported, and Crawford said she meets with Baylor police chief Brad Wigtil each week.
Last month, Baylor’s board of regents approved an “administrative action plan to prevent sexual violence.” It was revealed last week that the plan is part of a $5 million commitment “designed to prevent and respond to acts of interpersonal violence.”
The plan includes improvements and expansions of Baylor’s Title IX office and counseling centers. The Baylor Police Department also is seeking accreditation by the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.
The group “advances public safety for educational institutions by providing educational resources, advocacy and professional development services,” according to its website.
Baylor police also will increase Thursday, Friday and Saturday patrols in neighborhoods adjacent to campus.