The next chapter: an update on sexual assault prevention at the UO
Sexual assault awareness month is over, but the campus-wide efforts to address sexual assault aren’t. Here’s a look at what’s been done in the last year.
By Max Thornberry
The University of Oregon administration’s efforts to mitigate sexual assault are multifaceted, but one crucial aspect in the past year was hiring interim Title IX coordinator Darci Heroy, who handles university sexual misconduct cases.
Heroy’s hire, according to UO, brought attention to programs already in place.
“It was disconnected in a way that created a perception of larger issues. We are more nimble [now] because we have a better understanding of where all the pieces fit,” said Tobin Klinger, senior director of public affairs.
One program is a team of three counselors who are on call 24/7 to help students. Their contracts stipulate that they live within 30 minutes of campus.
Before Heroy’s appointment in February, administration implemented other changes. For example, incoming student athletes are now required to take a counseling psychology class called “Foundations of Student Health & Well-being,” which incorporates information about sexual assault into its curriculum.
Campus sexual assaults have garnered more attention in recent years, but Heroy thinks the problem is no worse at colleges than it is elsewhere.
“I don’t think it’s more prevalent on college campuses than it is in our culture in general,” Heroy said. “But it is more visible. It gives us an opportunity to [talk] about sexual violence in a focused way.”
By Troy Shinn
Student groups also kicked off new programs this year. The most prominent, the Get Explicit program, is a 90-minute presentation by the Sexual Wellness Advocacy Team. The program is mandatory for all first-year students living in a campus residence hall. To ensure all students attend, an ID scanner records attendance at the presentations, held in campus locations the first six weeks of fall term.
“It’s great that students are getting this exposure,” said SWAT member Cassie Smith. “After a few years of continuing the program, we’ll have a campus where most of the student body has seen Get Explicit.”
Another new program is the ASUO Men’s Center’s club, Men of Strength. This group meets every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in Lokey 176. Students discuss power dynamics within gender roles to rethink modern masculinity and reduce sexual violence.
Sophie Albanis, ASUO’s sexual and mental health advocate, started a Summit on Sexual Assault between student groups working on the issue. The Summit met once in fall term, but struggled to meet more often.
By Troy Shinn
UO psychology professor Jennifer Freyd is a leader in the campus sexual assault discussion and a vocal critic of the administration’s handling of sexual assault cases. Freyd and two graduate students have administered yearly surveys on sexual violence to over 1,000 students since 2014.
This year, Freyd highlighted progress, saying the number of students and groups participating in the conversation is higher than ever.
Freyd’s biggest concern is Fraternity and Sorority Life. A review of FSL requested by the UO Division of Student Life and published in April revealed sorority members felt pressured not to report sexual assaults.
“I think that report was really great for highlighting the problems that exist within Greek Life,” Freyd said. “But I’m still not hearing what actions are specifically being taken to address those problems. I don’t want to see more kids being exposed to that environment where violence is occurring more.”
Freyd and her students are shifting their research to cases of sexual harassment among graduate students and faculty. They’re looking to publish a new paper this year.
A major research initiative to study sexual violence is an annual survey by the Association of American Universities. UO participated in this survey for the first time in 2015 and published the results. It found that many students still have questions about reporting. It also confirmed the figure that Freyd’s survey of the UO initially found, which was that almost 25 percent of young women will have experienced some form of sexual violence by the end of their time attending the UO.
By Noah McGraw and Dahlia Bazzaz
In the past year, the University of Oregon Police Department, the Eugene Police Department, the Title IX office and the Lane County District Attorney’s office began partnering to help consolidate the sexual assault reporting process. Pursuing a criminal and student conduct code case against a perpetrator can mean months of investigation and re-telling of stories that can re-traumatize a survivor.
According to Lane County DA Patty Perlow, the idea for the collaboration — called the Campus Sexual Assault Team — came about last spring. In October, the district attorney’s office received a $25,000 federal grant to create it. This team is on-call 24/7, and the survivor can opt out of the process at any time.
According to preliminary numbers provided by UOPD, there were 26 reports of sexual assault on and off-campus in 2015 — the highest number since 2011, when the department received 30. Federal law requires UOPD to publish UO sexual assault data each year, but Kelly McIver, public information officer for the UOPD, says this data is “highly unreliable” for assessing the rate at which students experience sexual assault. Underreporting is still a problem, and the information required by the Jeanne Clery Act is restricted by geography and time.
Clery Act annual statistics are compiled by calendar year (not academic year). Clery Act annual statistics are counted for the year in which the crime was reported (not occurred). The 2015 preliminary statistics include crimes that were reported in calendar year 2015 that have been received by UOPD as of April 26, 2016.
Statistics will likely change before publication of the 2016 Annual Campus Security and Fire Safety Report. Outside law enforcement agencies and other security authorities may still provide additional reports received during calendar year 2015.
Fraternity and Sorority Life
By Lauren Garetto
The Sexual Violence Prevention Leadership Board coordinates many of FSL’s efforts to combat sexual assault. The board has at least one member from every chapter. They meet weekly and discuss ways to prevent sexual assault.
Last year, FSL came under fire when a survey showed that sorority women are three times more likely to be a sexual assault victim than women outside of the system.
Delta Tau Delta senior and board member Nathan Bergfelt said in the past year chapter leaders have stopped throwing blame around and realized the problem lies within the community and the culture.
“They were reacting to the publicity, the news and trying to clean up a pretty big, scarred wound. Now it’s more of like, the wound is healed; how do we not open it again?” Bergfelt said.
After publishing an external review in April, the university extended a halt on FSL expansion. This means new chapters cannot come to the university. Established chapters can still recruit new members — but only if the membership stays under a cap.
Sheryl Eyster, associate dean of students, said that not allowing more chapters to come to campus will make existing chapter sizes too big and unmanageable.
“It’s harder for FSL leaders to address every incident when there are that many people,” Eyster said.