PAVE and the Brook Center hosted a candlelit walk Tuesday to support sexual assault survivors. Photo courtesy of Sofia Garcia.
Ren Sikes | Opinion’s Editor
Lucina Judd | Business Manager
The following content contains subject matter including sexual abuse, if you or anyone you know is experiencing sexual abuse, assault or harassment please consider the following on and off-campus sources:
- National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE
- The Brook Center 937-229-1217
- UD Department of Public Safety 937-229-2121
- Dayton City Police Department 937-333-2677
- Health Center 937-229-3131 (Only doctors are a confidential source)
- RAINN 800-656-4673 (Confidential)
- Montgomery County Prosecutor’s 24-hour sexual
- assault hotline 937-225-5623 (Confidential)
- Women’s Center (on campus) 937-229-5390
- Equity Compliance Office 937-229-3622
Editor’s Note: Due to the nature of this story, we have given one of our sources the pseudonym of Catie Smith to protect their privacy and identity. Any similarity of names is coincidental and bears no truth to the identity of our source.
Thirteen University of Dayton students reported being raped in 2020, but according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, about two out of three assaults go unreported, meaning UD and other universities likely have more cases than reports.
“If the numbers of reports have gone up, that’s not necessarily to say that the numbers [of incidents] have changed. What that does say is that people are feeling more confident and more informed and more empowered to come forward and report,” said Laura Carper, UD’s coordinator for sexual violence prevention education.
SGA President Sofia Garcia hopes to see a more concrete change in the numbers of reports. She wants to see numbers increase as more people report and then decrease when preventative measures are enacted and less incidents occur.
UD is required by the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy Act to produce an annual report detailing crime and fire statistics and measures taken by the university, including how to report instances of sexual assault and harassment.
“Sexual assault means an offense that meets the definitions of rape, fondling, incest or statutory rape as used in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program,” according to UD’s 2021 clery report’s definition of sexual assault.
The report goes on to define rape as penetration of the vagina or anus or oral penetration with any object, body part or sex organ of an another person, without consent. Fondling is defined as the touching of the private parts of another person for the purposes of sexual gratification, without the consent of the victim.
However, the category of sexual harrasment includes coercion, threats and sexual pressuring that results in the victim engaging “in unwanted sexual activity.” The report is not clear about if sexual harrasment resulting in unwanted sexual activity should then be filled as assault.
“There’s so many stipulations, and you’re just like, ‘where do you start? Where do you go?’ And you can ask for help, but it’s still really hard to ask for help when you’re in that headspace,” Garcia said.
One of Garcia’s campaign focuses, along with her vice president, Anastasia Stowers, was increasing sexual assault awareness on campus.
One of the main issues Garcia brought up was that it is difficult for victims who are already traumatized to go through the process of finding out how to report what happened. However, for UD junior Catie Smith, her reporting process was made easier by already having connections in UD’s counseling center.
“My counselor is the one who suggested Title IX to me,” Smith said. “She provided a bunch of resources like the Brook Center and then Title IX, and she had walked me through what Title IX would look like.”
Title IX is a national policy upheld by UD that prohibits discrimination, harrassment and sexual violence. The university must provide protections for those that have experienced and reported violations of discrimination, including sexual assault and harrassment which are classified as a type of sex discrimination.
Smith said that this made the reporting process easier to go through because she knew how to file, and what she wanted to file. But for individuals that do not routinely see a counselor on campus, the process may seem overwhelming.
“I feel as though, unfortunately, the transparency of the process and stuff is all up to someone that has to look at these reports,” Garcia said. She called on the university to make the process more transparent and to make clear who UD’s mandated reporters are.
According to UD’s Mandatory Reporting Policy, a mandatory reporter is defined as “any employee who has been given a duty of reporting incidents of suspected discrimination or harassment to the executive director for equity compliance or designee.”
However, the entire process following reporting is entirely up to the victim. Executive Director and Title IX/Section 504 Coordinator with the equity compliance office Tanya Pinkelton believes that this gives the control back to the victim.
“We try to empower the individual to make the decision that’s best for them. And so we give them what we call a spectrum of options, so we can have those discussions and really let the person decide what they think is in their best interest,” Pinkelton said.
Smith echoed this sentiment in her interview saying that the people she’s interacted with throughout the process have checked with her before every step including before her assaulter was contacted.
Many people have described UD as a bubble: a safe, supportive, community environment. Yet, for Smith, the biggest issue she’s encountered is not from the administration but from students. She said the most resistance she received about reporting was from the mutual friends she and her assaulter shared.
Smith also saw messages posted to YikYak during the sexual assault awareness protest on campus Tuesday as protesters were chanting phrases like “yes means yes” and “no means no.”
“People were being terrible. So mean about it,” Smith said. “And it’s just like, I think if we can work on that aspect of the UD community it will also transfer to any sort of quirks that people might have had with the administration or issues that they’ve experienced that I haven’t.”
Reactions from students have made it difficult for survivors of sexual assault to speak up, according to Smith There were a total of 18 incidents of fondling or rape reported to UD in 2020, with statistics supporting an increase in reports if students had more resources and community support.
“The UD bubble can be a very real thing as far as the sense of community that we have here,” Carper said. “But saying it doesn’t happen here is really harmful, because when you say it doesn’t happen here I feel like that silences people who it has happened to.”