Sexual assault programs on track
Linfield gets an A on its sexual assault awareness report card as campus services have their bases covered in dealing with education, prevention and victim recovery.
“We are on track with (the) information we are providing to students and it still relates to students; which is important,” Christina Ries, coordinator of health promotion and student wellness, said.
A couple of weeks ago, students received an e-mail from Director of Campus Safety Mike Dressel notifying them a sexual assault had been reported from an off-campus location and encouraging students to attend the One in Four program on sexual assault.
Ries said in 2006 there were three reports of sexual assault on campus and five in residence halls for a total of eight. The total was four in 2004, which does not necessarily indicate a rise in sexual assault incidents, but may be because of better reporting practices.
Ries said receiving a report does not mean the incident was rape; it could be domestic violence or unwanted kissing, and the incident may not have occurred on campus.
Reporting is done using anonymous forms available on campus, formal reporting to Linfield Campus Safety or the police and through Resident Advisers, area directors and victim advocates.
Two anonymous report forms have been turned in during the last year, Ries said.
Reported incidents can be handled by the police or the college judicial board; it is the decision of the victim if he or she wants to take action.
Ries said at least two cases were viewed by the college judicial board last year.
Although most cases of rape are by someone the victim knows, Dressel is keeping campus safe by looking out for registered sex offenders while patrolling. He also escorts students home in the dark.
He said a couple of weeks ago he was patrolling and recognized a registered sex offender walking through campus. He called the LCS office and checked the man’s identification. This can be a problem because if nothing is done, the offender may get comfortable on campus and continue to return, Dressel said.
The offender was asked not to walk through campus. Dressel said the encounter was the first time this had happened in the last five years. He said he is not worried about this particular person returning to campus because he is well-known by the police and the community.
Counselor Dawn Williamson said often victims do not come forward and report sexual assault because they don’t think anyone will believe them, especially if the student had been drinking alcohol at the time.
If a victim does come forward, he or she often does not want to pursue disciplinary action for the perpetrator because it is usually someone the victim knows, and does not want to relive the traumatizing experience by retelling the story, Williamson said.
Students who have been drinking at the time of the assault will be covered by the medical clemency policy, Williamson said. She wanted to emphasize that if alcohol was a factor, then there was no consent and the action was a crime. Assault is never the victim’s fault, she said.
“It doesn’t matter whether or not they have been drinking or whether they’re walking across campus with no clothes on,” Williamson said. “It still doesn’t give anyone the right to assault them.”
Ries and Williamson hope students take advantage of the reporting and recovery resources available on campus.
Before Spring Break, the school brought the program One in Four to present sexual assault education to men and women. The title comes from a statistic which states one in four college-aged women have experienced sexual assault. Ries said about 250 people attended the men’s and women’s sessions.
The feedback was very positive, she said. This was the first year a women’s presentation was included.
Students said the program was much like the CATS presentations all freshmen participate in at the beginning of the school year, which means Linfield is doing a good job of disseminating information.
Ries said anonymous report forms are being picked up much more often than being turned in, which could also be positive because at least the first step in recovery is being taken. She said she is refilling the forms most often outside of the Campus Information Center, Walker Hall and Withnell Commons.
Besides being located around campus, the form is also available online, which can add to the anonymous aspect of reporting. Williamson said the forms are confidential and are sent directly to Student Services when turned in.
Williamson said Linfield is focused not as much on prevention, but risk reduction, as sexual assault is a problem ingrained in our society. She said if people are trained in self defense, they may still be sexually assaulted.
If the school focuses on changing the culture at Linfield, it may have an impact on other areas.
Ries said she has already seen a lot of change in attitudes toward sexual assault on campus as more student groups are raising awareness. It continues to be a hot topic, she said.
Ries and Williamson are working to encourage bystanders to step in when they see a friend in a risky situation.
Programming on campus includes discussions in classes such as Human Sexuality and Drug Use in the U.S., CATS presentations, Sexual Assault Task Force, a Writing Through Trauma group held last fall and Performing Wellness last spring, when the theater department performed the writings of anony- mous victims.