Security increases effort in sexual assault awareness

A campus security authority reported being notified by a hall resident of a sexual assault having occurred in a resident’s room in Killingsworth Hall late night on Oct. 10.  The complainant wished to remain anonymous and declined to file a police report, but the report was made for documentation.

In the spring 2017 semester, a victim came forward stating that she or he had been sexually assaulted on April 24. Another victim stated he or she had been assaulted on April 28. Both incidents occurred in Killingsworth Hall, an all female dorm, after Pierce, an all male dorm, was closed and residents were moved to Killingsworth.

Each report states that the victim(s) “declined to provide details of the assault and declined to pursue the matter through the criminal justice system.” The American Civil Liberties Union, estimates that at least 95 percent of campus rapes in the United States go unreported.

“I don’t think it gets reported because victims see that nothing happens when they do report it and that is mainly due to the system,” Courtney Kohl, history sophomore, said.

The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network reports that nearly 70 percent of victims don’t inform the police, and only 25 percent of reported assaults eventually result in an arrest.

Sexual assault, a type of sexual violence, is a term that applies to a broad range of forced and unwanted sexual activity. It includes attempted rape — unwanted fondling or sexual touching — and rape, generally defined as penetration of a victim’s body against their will. Sexual assault can involve forcing someone into non-consensual sexual acts by way of manipulation, physical or emotional coercion, or psychological force, including threats or other means of intimidation.

As a result of these incidents and numbers, university administration members have begun to put in a more active effort in spreading prevention and awareness of sexual assault, along with issues of excess drinking, drug and alcohol abuse.

As of the fall 2016 semester, all new undergraduate freshman and college transfer students must complete an online program during their first long semester on campus called “Think About It” to register for classes.

“The university is concerned about issues of bystander intervention, violence against women, sexual assault and alcohol and drug abuse,” Pam Midgett, director of the Counseling Center, said. “This is a program that the university has purchased that is customized to the campus.”

During the “Think About It” program, students examine the interconnected issues of healthy relationships, bystander intervention,  hooking up, substance abuse and preventing sexual violence through a variety of interactive, realistic scenarios and guided self-reflection. Students will have the opportunity to earn points and badges as they progress through the program. Overall, the program takes between two and two-and-a-half hours to complete, but students can work at their own pace, leave and return to the program at any time.

The program was made mandatory out of both, concern for students and following federal law.

“We [The university] did it because we are concerned about students and want them to have information and to protect themselves and have a safe experience in college,” Midgett said. “Another reason that we did it is because the federal government required colleges to cover these topics and make sure their students knew about violence against women and sexual assault.”

According to Midgett, this is not the university’s first effort to create sexual assault awareness, but it is the most active. There are events held in the spring to raise awareness for this issue.

“We are attempting to spread the message that it is up to all of us on campus to prevent violence against women, sexual assault, excess drinking and to increase bystander intervention,” Midgett said. “We want students to feel empowered to say ‘Stop don’t do that to him or to her,’ or ‘Come on, I’m going to take you home.'”

While these events are good, Kohl said the effort is not strong enough. According to Kohl, there needs to be more awareness. Having a seminar is not enough, and Kohl said people are able to walk away from their computer screen and not pay attention to the “Think About It” training.

However, Midgett thinks that it is a two-way street when it comes to the amount of effort applied to sexual assault awareness.

“It’s like anything else — what you put into it is what you get out of it,” Midgett said. “We hope that students would value this information and will want to know about it to have a safe experience in college.”

The University Police Department is required to obtain and publish annual reports under the Jeanne Clery law.

Reported cases of sexual assault:

  • 2014 – 2
  • 2015 – 4
  • 2016 – 4