Reporting, untangling sexual assault at UD

By: Rachel Cain – News Editor

“Shatter the silence. Stop the violence.”

As evening descends on UD’s campus April 11, Take Back the Night will offer students who are survivors of various forms of assault to share their experiences in a supportive environment. As in past years, attendants will gather on the steps of Humanities Plaza at 8 p.m. to offer support and an attentive ear to these testimonies, and the annual event will culminate in a march through the student neighborhood and a candlelight vigil on ArtStreet.

“I think the mission is best summed up by the chant that many TBTN marches chant as they march, and that is to ‘Shatter the Silence. Stop the Violence.’” Mary Margaret Whitney, senior women’s and gender studies major, wrote in an email interview. “By encouraging and supporting survivors to speak out against their violence, TBTN aims to end sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse and all other forms of power-based personal violence. No one should live in fear of the night, or of the day.”

“Power-based personal violence can be a very isolating act. That is why it is so helpful for some survivors to see that [they] aren’t alone,” Whitney said.

A 2015 Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey reported that one in five women and one in 20 men experienced sexual assault while in college. The August 2014 First Report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault yielded the same one in five statistic. In addition, according to a 2015 survey by the Association of American Universities, one in four transgender students and three in four LGBT-identifying students said they have experienced sexual assault since enrolling in college.

“I think, generally, overall the campus is an extremely safe place. I think the people charged with protecting the university community do an amazing job,” said David Sipusic, Title IX/ 504 Coordinator and Equity Compliance Officer. “…I think that while this is a wonderful campus with great resources and a great sense of belonging, I think sometimes that can lull people into a false sense of comfort, and students still need to realize this is the real world—and things can happen if they’re not aware of their surroundings.”

Sipusic is primarily responsible for interpreting the federal Title IX policy at the University of Dayton level.

According to the University of Dayton 2015 Campus Security and Fire Safety Report, the definition of sexual assault includes rape, fondling, incest and statutory rape.

According to the same report, seven on-campus rapes were reported in 2012, five in 2013 and four in 2014. In all years, zero off-campus rapes were reported. There were zero instances of fondling reported in 2012, one in 2013 and four in 2014. Zero instances of incest and of statutory rape were reported for 2012, 2013 and 2014.

A Public Safety representative said that the number of sexual assaults reported fluctuates year to year, although the average is probably between seven and 10.

“Sometimes, we think we’re in this Dayton bubble, but unfortunately [sexual assault] is happening and so we need to be aware and take charge of this and stop it,” Amber Bielunski, senior sport management major said. Bielunski spoke with first-year students about the Green Dot program during New Student Orientation.

MANDATORY REPORTERS

If a student has been sexually assaulted, UD’s sexual violence prevention webpage encourages them to seek out a safe place and call Public Safety—considered mandatory reporters—so they can receive medical attention.

The Miami Valley Hospital and Kettering Medical Center have a sexual assault nurse examiner on call 24/7.These nurses can provide a free medical forensic exam, which victims can utilize even if they choose not to press charges. Forensic exams are possible within 96 hours of the incident.

Although the Health Center cannot collect forensic evidence, they can provide assistance for victims by providing a medical evaluation along with a STD check and/or treatment. (Doctors there are confidential sources.)

Sipusic emphasized the importance ensuring the victim’s safety.

“Once we receive a report, we will reach out to the party and offer resources,” Sipusic said. “The most important part up front, [is the victim’s] physical well-being: if they need to go to the hospital, if they need to contact Public Safety, or the Police Department of the City of Dayton, or if they need to see a counselor, or just want to talk to someone … On the front end, that’s the most important part, making sure people receive immediate care and attention.”

The 2015 Campus Security and Fire Safety Report notes that victims of sexual assault should, if possible, save text messages and other forms of communication that could be used as evidence in the future. Victims can also preserve evidence by not showering, brushing teeth, eating or drinking and not washing and storing the clothes they were wearing in a paper or cloth bag.

The next step for someone who has experienced sexual assault, as advised by the Title IX/Section 504 and Equity Compliance Office, is talking to someone to about the incident.

“Find somebody that’s safe for that person to talk to,” said Kristen Altenau, sexual violence prevention education coordinator. “Whether that’s scheduling a meeting with me, whether it’s going and visiting the Counseling Center or making an appointment with somebody in the Health Center, we have folks on campus that are confidential that they can talk to.”

However, if a student is uncertain about or wants to learn more about making a report with Public Safety or the Title IX office, they can reach out to a confidential resource to discuss their situation. Private reporters also follow different requirements than mandatory reporters.

PRIVATE REPORTERS

If a survivor is looking for an outlet to share an incident of sexual violence, harassment, assault, domestic violence or stalking but does not want to instigate university action, they can go to private reporters. These are university staff members, “who are not required to initially tell anyone else their private, personally identifiable information unless there is a pattern of abuse or cause for fear for their safety or the safety of others,” according to the Nondiscrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy.

At the university, these reporters include staff members at the Women’s Center, Campus Ministry and the Counseling Center.

These reporters only have to share “the nature, date, time and general location of the incident to the Title IX Coordinator”—“except in the rare event that the incident reveals a need to protect the disclosing party and/or other members of the community,” as written in the policy.

CONFIDENTIAL REPORTERS

“If somebody is thinking about reporting and they’re not really sure what that process looks like or are scared, I highly recommend talking to somebody that they trust or that’s in the Counseling Center and getting some more information about the reporting process,” Altenau said.

Confidential resources who do not have to report the incident are counselors at the Counseling Center, doctors at the Health Center and ordained members of the clergy through Campus Ministry.

“Just reach out. There’s a lot of people who want to help. There’re resources there if people are looking for them,” Bielunski said.

“A lot of the research that we’ve seen shows that students are afraid of the backlash, that they’re afraid of feeling that people are going to attack them,” said Maitlan Sullivan, senior education major and intern with the office of sexual violence prevention education. “There’s the idea of being a tattletale.”

The ModernThink Unlawful Discrimination and Harassment Assessment for the University of Dayton for the 2014-15 academic year indicated that 22 percent of respondents believe “people would label the person making the report [of sexual assault] a trouble maker,” while 43 percent do not.

Eighty-one percent of respondents believe “people would support the person making the report,” while three percent did not.

According to a 2014 U.S. Justice Department report that collected data from 1995 – 2013, 20 percent of female college campus sexual assault victims reported the incident to the police. Reasons for not reporting the incident range from believing it was a personal matter to fearing retaliation to believing the police could not help with the matter.

If students are aware of a sexual assault incident that has taken place, they can submit a report at UD’s Nondiscrimination Resource Center webpage.

The report can be anonymous if the individual is not a mandatory reporter. All university employees who are not confidential or private reporters are mandatory reporters, and must report instances of sexual assault to Sipusic’s office within one business day of the incident, and must include the names (if known) of the individuals involved.

“Once that process is engaged, the individual has choices,” Sipusic said. “…It’s part of our policy administration, where the individual can seek interim remedies. That can be a wide range—it can be a pursuit of a no-contact order, it can be a pursuit of change in class schedule, of working schedule if they’re an employee—so there’s a wide range of interim remedies that are available.”

The victim does not have to report the incident to law enforcement in order to receive these remedies. And, the review process through the Equity Compliance Office is separate from any criminal investigation. If the student would like to pursue the Equity Complaint Process, they should contact Sipusic. The incident would then be reviewed by an investigatory team comprised of campus officials with training or experience in reviewing harassment complaints, including those related to sexual violence.

Members of the university community itself can offer support to people who have experienced sexual assault by becoming more knowledgeable on the topic and working to prevent it in all forms.

“You owe it to your community and to yourself to be aware. Be aware that rape, sexual assault and dating violence all happen,” Whitney wrote. “These things are happening to your fellow Flyers right on this campus. Knowing that rape and sexual assault happen within this community is disheartening and upsetting, but work is being done every day to end it.”

For the staff editorial on this issue, visit here. If you have a story to tell, please email flyernewseditor@gmail.com. If you need a confidential resource, please visit or call the Counseling Center, the Health Center or Campus Ministry. To file an assault complaint form online, visit here