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The Northerner

NKU hopes to address sexual assault issue with federal grant

Alyson Schoenung, Staff writer

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One out of every six American women have or will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape at some point in their lifetime, according to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network. These statistics indicate that over 17.7 million women have been victims to an attempted or completed rape.

As a response to these numbers and the statistics pertaining to the student body at NKU, the university is hoping to bring more attention to the problem of sexual assault through applying for a grant from the federal government to form services for victims of sexual assault. The grant would distribute $300,000 to the university over the period of three years to instate sexual assault services for victims and educational programs for those attending and working at the university.

Collectively, Ann James, NKU’s Title IX Coordinator, University Police and a collection of faculty and staff members across campus, came together to write the grant requesting the funding necessary to create these services.

Ann James, Title IX coordinator and associate dean of students since May of 2012, is an advocate for victims of sexual assault. As Title IX Coordinator, James is in charge of making sure the University complies with regulations as defined by the US Department of Education and the Office of Civil Rights instated for any institution that is federally funded. Previously working in housing, James saw many instances of sexual assault happening within the dorms. “It seemed like a problem that wasn’t getting a lot of attention,” she said.

Sexual assault includes any type of forcing an unwilling participant into sexual situations whether it be rape, and/or inappropriately touching them. In an Indiana University study, it was found that many sexual assault victims in college directly stem from college parties where alcohol is involved.

“Through the grant we’re looking to hire one person who would serve as an advocate and counselor  for students who want to report and just want help and support with sexual violence,” she said.

The person hired would also be responsible for starting, implementing, and maintaining a peer education program for students to train other students to be able to intervene in a situation in which they witness or learn of a sexual assault.

The position will not only focus on current sexual assaults, but also giving attention to students who experienced the assault before coming to NKU.

“Sometimes it happened last weekend, sometimes five years ago, ” James said of the reports students come to her about sexual assaults.

In addition the services would be used to educate the campus as a whole about sexual violence and how to prevent it.

“I’ve just worked with so many students who come and tell me that this has happened to them; that they’ve been sexually assaulted, sexually harassed, either at school or before they got here,” she said.

As Title IX coordinator, James has been trying to bring more attention to the issue of sexual assault by doing presentations at all of the new student orientations during the summer. “They hear about what serves they can get from university police and health and prevention services,” she said.

James also does presentations for student organizations that contact her requesting it.

In comparison to the national average for sexual assaults on college campus, James revealed that NKU is just below. “We were right just below the national statistics for women and men, both, students experiencing sexual violence, both here and before getting to college,” she said.

According to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), every two minutes someone is sexually assaulted. Out of those people, 80 percent of them are under the age of 30. This creates figures pinpointing at our college age campus, where most of the student population are under the age of 30.

NKU recently did a study to gather statistics of where NKU stands among the National Average in sexual assaults and related numbers. Although the report has not been published yet, the findings have shown that NKU is certainly no exception to sexual violence plaguing college campuses. “I would say we’re about average,” James said referring to the study.

James describes the number of students coming in and out of her office with reports as consistent. “I wouldn’t describe it as a rush of students coming in,” she said. “But it has gotten more frequent as more students know about it, knowing that they have somewhere that they can go,” she said.

The current process used to deal with sexual assault reports in the Dean of Students office starts with James. James starts the process by asking the students, “are you okay, when did this happen, what kind of medical support do you need, what kind of psychological help do you need, address those needs first, before doing anything else,” she said.

Students are given the option of filing a report and going through NKU’s judicial process. As stated in the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities, a thorough investigation and “hearing proceedings are conducted in a timely, thorough, and impartial manner.”

Referring to NKU’s handling of sexual assault cases, James said, “We’ll always investigate every claim that we get.”

“We do not sweep anything under the rug,” she said.

In addition to offering support and legal action for the victim, James says that she also refers the students to the Women’s Crisis Center in Covington and St. Elizabeth hospital, where there is a sexual assault nurse examiner.

If NKU were to receive the grant, someone from the Women’s Crisis Center would be on campus one day a week and available to students for their services.

James feels optimistic about the passing of the grant. “We’ve got faculty, university police, student affairs; I think we’ve demonstrated a commitment from many people on campus to addressing the issue,” she said.

James is hoping that a group of students will take the initiative to start a group advocating for sexual assault victims and educating their peers about sexual violence.

“I really think that would be an effective to get the word out on campus,” she said. “If it’s somebody their own age with similar experience, it’s just so much better,” she said.

Although there is not a student group that has been established or currently in the process, many students have shown interest in the subject, James said. “It takes a lot of work and time,” she said hinting at why students may have not taken on the feat just yet.

Carly Nessler, a graduating senior, Psychology major agrees that it would be helpful for students to have a sexual assault program on campus. “I think at first people won’t use it, but then once they see other people who have been sexually assaulted using the services, they’ll be more willing themselves,” she said.

Nessler, who says she personally doesn’t know anyone who’s been sexually assaulted, thinks that the services would be beneficial in the way of emotional support for those who have been assaulted. “Just being able to talk about it, because there’s nothing you can change about it; coming to terms with it and not feeling like it’s something that you’re cursed with is important,” Nessler said.  “If they can talk about it, I feel like it would make them feel more normal,” she said.

It is important that students know that there is a place for them if they are a victim of sexual assault. A report published in part by two professors of the Division of Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati called: “Campus Sexual Assault: How America’s Institutions of Higher Education Respond,” details many examples of what makes a successful sexual assault programs on college campuses.

Upon researching sexual assault response and reporting policies of traditional four-year colleges, eight colleges’ practices were studied. According to the report the prevention efforts are “implicitly encoded into programs designed to educate, prevent, and respond to rape and sexual assault on postsecondary campuses of higher education.”

It was found that within these colleges, such as University of Southern California and Oklahoma State University, “a proactive administrative stance acknowledges the reality of the sexual victimization of college-aged students by their acquaintances while providing comprehensive prevention and response policies,” the report said.

These proactive approaches of the administration encourage students to talk about the issue of sexual assault and not be afraid of the  implications of the phrase. Education programs in place to do so are through new student orientations, campus events, presentations, and informational campaigns through fliers and pamphlets.

Although, NKU has implemented similar ways of providing sexual assault education to students, this grant would further these efforts by giving those involved more opportunity to reach a larger number of students and use more methods of getting their attention with the necessary funds.

Upon receiving police reports for sexual assault cases on NKU’s campus from the 2011-2012 academic year, there was a very low number of reports. These findings go along with James’ experience as Title IX coordinator and the national statistics that many victim’s do not report the assaults to law enforcement and when they do decided to tell someone, it’s usually too late to find enough evidence for there to be a case.

Supporting these findings, the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network also released a statistic saying that nearly 54 percent of sexual assaults go unreported to law enforcement. Due to low reporting, about 97 percent of the offenders never serve a day in jail.

NKU will receive word on whether they received the grant in September of 2013. Until then, James continues to provide the services she can for those who have experienced sexual assault and seek guidance by those within the university.

To become familiar with NKU’s sexual misconduct policy, one can visit the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities.

MORE INFO:

Statistics from the Rape, Abuse, & Incest Network website as referenced to the Bureau of Justice Statistics report (1997)

  • 44% of victims are under the age of 18, 80% are under the age of 30.

  • Every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexual assaulted.

  • Every year, about 207,754 people are victims of sexual assault.

  • 54% of sexual assaults are not reported to police; therefore 97% of rapists never face jail time.

  • About 2/3 of assaults are committed by a someone the victim knows; 38% of rapists are either a friend of acquaintance of the victim.

  • 50% of all assaults are reported to have occurred within 1 mile of the victim’s home or at their home.

  • 43% of rapes occur between 6pm-midnight; 24% occur between midnight-6am; 33% occur between 6 a.m.-6 p.m.

 

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The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.
NKU hopes to address sexual assault issue with federal grant