University leaders push for change in addressing sexual misconduct
Administrators are working to revise the University’s standards for addressing sexual assault on campus, noting that current measures often fall short in preventing crimes and holding perpetrators accountable.
“The University is reviewing all of our protocol and response mechanisms to sexual violence,” Associate Dean of Students Sheryl Eyster said. “We see some gaps in our service; we know we can do better.”@@http://studentlife.uoregon.edu/Home/DeanofStudentsStaff/tabid/189/Default.aspx@@
The University currently provides various support, health and legal services for survivors of sexual assault on campus, including a sexual assault nurse examiner trained to collect forensic evidence in rape cases — a service not guaranteed at other universities.
Programs are spread out, however, which administrators and faculty fear discourages reporting and hinders their ability to adequately investigate alleged misconduct.
“It takes a lot of energy for a student to have to navigate all these different systems,” Eyster said, adding that it can be traumatic for survivors to repeat their story several times.
The support is there, but it needs to be more centralized, Eyster said.
“What we’re looking at is how can we take all the obstacles for a survivor and minimize them,” Eyster said. “How can we create a way that is survivor-centered and yet still hold students accountable who need to be held accountable?”
Eyster and others working to address the issue propose enacting a sexual assault response team on campus. A SART would merge resources already available on campus to create one centralized source dedicated to preventing sexual assault and providing support for students to file complaints.
“Right now we have lots of people that serve in a variety of ways,” Eyster said. “With a SART, people would come together and work much more collaboratively.”
The University is not alone in its mission to further address sexual misconduct by creating more formal and coordinated programs and services. Several universities around the country already have SARTs enacted on their campuses, and there is currently a bill passing through the Oregon legislature that would require each county to fund a SART.
Even administrators and faculty focused on finding better means of preventing and addressing sexual assault acknowledged that it requires more than just new support positions.
“We need to be looking at the bigger picture of why this is happening in the first place and holding perpetrators accountable,” said Abigail Leeder, director of sexual violence prevention and [email protected]@http://studentlife.uoregon.edu/Home/DeanofStudentsStaff/tabid/189/Default.aspx@@
Leeder encouraged more education to ensure students understand what sexual violence really is: “Consent is not just the line between rape and not rape,” she said.
Students involved in sexual assault prevention groups took a similar stance.
“Administration who create our campus culture need to be more responsible in how our students act,” said Jennifer Busby, a member of the University’s Sexual Wellness Advocacy Team. “They should make it clear that this behavior is not acceptable.”@@http://en-gb.facebook.com/jennifer.busby@@
According to standards set by the Oregon University System’s subcommittee on sexual assault, universities should frame sexual assault as a social problem that requires both men and women to intervene — which Busby and other members of SWAT said administration could improve on.
“They don’t encourage reporting of a perpetrator. They encourage reporting of an assault,” sophomore Ally Wiviott said, noting how campus crime alerts often give tips on how to reduce the risk of sexual violence but neglect to send the message that assault will not be tolerated and perpetrators held [email protected]@http://directory.uoregon.edu/telecom/directory.jsp?p=findpeople%2Ffind_results&m=student&d=person&b=name&s=Wiviott@@
“Risk reduction is different than actual prevention,” Leeder said. “We need to be focusing more on how to stop people from perpetrating sexual violence.”
Do you appreciate independent student journalism? Emerald Media Group is a non-profit organization. Please consider a donation to support our mission.