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The Daily Wildcat

 

Reporting sexual assault

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Amy Webb
Amy Webb / Arizona Daily Wildcat Dean of Students Office in Old Main

It’s hard to know how many people are sexually assaulted on campus. A single case has been reported to the UAPD this year, but five reports have been made to the Dean of Students Office. And about 40 reports have been filed with the Oasis program. The university’s data regarding sexual assault varies across campus and its statistics cannot begin to capture the prevalence of sexual assault in the UA community.

According to a report funded by the Department of Justice, roughly 1 in 5 college-age women will be impacted by sexual assault by the time they graduate. Kathe Young, psychologist at the Oasis Program at Campus Health Service, said the UA is no exception, yet the data collected by the Oasis program, the Dean of Students Office and University of Arizona Police Department do not reflect her assumption. Each department handles sexual assault cases differently, and the outcome of these cases depend on which office the report was initally filed in.

When it comes to reporting sexual assault, members of the UA community can press criminal charges with UAPD, file a Code of Conduct violation with the Dean of Students Office or make a confidential report to the Oasis program.

“Since students can report to one department or all three, depending on the actions that they want taken, it is not surprising that our numbers are different,” said Dean of Students Keith Humphrey. “Sometimes, victims choose to not report to anyone and that is their right. Sometimes, victims want to report. Sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes both on and off a college campus.”

UAPD

Only one case of sexual assault has been filed with UAPD in the past year, as reported in a recent article by the Daily Wildcat.

A report made to the University of Arizona Police Department ultimately results in a criminal investigation of the incident in which the department attempts to build a case and bring the perpetrator to justice. When it comes to pressing criminal charges in instances of sexual assault, time is of the essence, according to Sgt. Juan Alvarez, UAPD’s public information officer.

“We encourage anyone who is the victim of sexual assault to report it immediately,” he said. The sooner a report is made, the sooner the police can collect evidence of the crime, he said.

“We may lose that (the case) if it’s over an extended period of time,” Alvarez said.

When someone calls UAPD to report sexual assault, a patrol officer is sent to get an official statement from the caller. Then a detective with training in sexual assault cases handles the investigation, and nurses gather forensic evidence from the victim to substantiate the case.

In order for UAPD to act on a report, the assault must take place on university-owned property. Any incidents that happen out of UAPD’s jurisdiction, regardless of whether the people involved are affiliated with the university or not, are referred to the Tucson Police Department, Alvarez said.

However, if a sexual assault victim called the UAPD to report an offense out of its jurisdiction, a UAPD officer would ensure the victim’s safety until TPD could reach the scene.

“We’re going to make sure they get the help that they need,” Alvarez said.

While UAPD’s investigations are completely independent of the Dean of Students Office, the department will contact the office if the victim is a student so that he or she can get support, Alvarez said.

UAPD only works with the Oasis program if a victim wants to pursue a criminal case. However, the Oasis program collaborates with the department to prevent crime on campus and provides officer trainings about how to work with sexual assault victims, according to Erin Strange, violence prevention specialist for the Oasis Program.

Dean of Students

Five instances of “sexual misconduct” have been reported to the Dean of Students Office so far this academic year, according to Dean of Students Keith Humphrey and Associate Dean of Students Kendal Washington White in an email.

The Student Code of Conduct defines sexual misconduct as any non-consensual sexual interaction, including indecent exposure. If a person is found guilty of sexual misconduct, he or she may be subject to a variety of disciplinary actions, or “sanctions,” ranging from a notation on his or her transcript to expulsion. The facts of each case determine what sanctions are imposed.

A report made to the Dean of Students Office initiates a Code of Conduct investigation. The purpose of this investigation is to discover exactly what happened between the victim and the accused. The office has the authority to act on incidents that take place on or off-campus that threaten the health or safety of UA students, Humphrey and Washington White said.

To file a report, students can either speak directly to a dean or a student advocate or make a complaint online through the Dean of Students Office website.

Others can make a report if they believe a student they know has been sexually assaulted. The Dean of Students will reach out to the victim, providing resources “to help them continue their education in a safe environment,” Humphrey and Washington White said.

Several federal regulations dictate how the Dean of Students handles the information contained in cases of sexual assault. Title IX requires the office to investigate every instance of sexual misconduct, including rape, as fully as possible, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, mandates that the details of each report remain entirely confidential.

Because of the Clery Act, an act requiring all universities that participate in federal financial aid programs to keep information about crime on and near their campuses, the UA is required to disclose campus crime statistics. So the Dean of Students, along with other departments on campus, works with UAPD to collect data for the annual Campus Security Report.

Oasis

Since August 2011, the Oasis program has received about 40 reports of sexual assault from students, according to Erin Strange, violence prevention specialist for the program.

When a person discloses to Oasis that he or she has been sexually assaulted, he or she may choose to file a “confidential report” with the program. The report includes details like when the incident took place, whether it occurred on or off campus and what actually happened. Names, however, are not included. The only identifying information given about the perpetrator is his or her relationship to the victim, who also goes unnamed.

The confidential reports made to Oasis are used to collect data and point out trends about sexual assault in the UA community. The data shows that most victims of sexual assault in the UA community are acquainted with their attackers, which is consistent with national statistics, according to Kathe Young, a psychologist in the Oasis program.

Unless a victim specifies that he or she wants to press criminal charges, instances of sexual assault reported to Oasis are not investigated by the University of Arizona Police Department or the Dean of Students Office. Not every victim wants to press criminal charges because he or she may fear retaliation by the perpetrator or worry that the investigation will inconvenience those involved, Young said, while others choose to cope with the experience by pretending it never occurred.

“And sometimes, especially with acquaintance rape, there’s a lot of confusion about what did happen,” Strange added. “So sometimes, people don’t know how to name what happened to them right away.”

Filing a confidential report with Oasis helps survivors deal with the aftermath of their experiences by giving them an alternative to going to the police or the Dean of Students Office, Young said.

“Why is it important that it’s confidential? Because then victims of sexual assault get to choose who they tell, and when and how,” she said.

Still, while filing a confidential report with Oasis may empower victims of sexual assault, it poses a disadvantage to the UA community as a whole, Young said.

“We know that people who rape or sexually assault tend to do it more than once, and if there is someone on campus doing that, we’d really like to be able to know about that and be able to do something to prevent future occurrences,” she said.

While the 40 reports to Oasis were filed by students, anyone affiliated with the UA can seek help from the Oasis Program and incidents involving sexual assault need not take place on the UA campus.

“This campus does not have walls all the way around that protect us from leaving, coming and going,” Strange said. “This is why it’s really hard to even put a guesstimate number on what’s really happening.”

They said it’s:

“Shouldn’t they (sexual assault cases) all be reported to the UAPD at some point? I mean, I feel like they should, because they have more legal authority to deal with them. I feel like it shouldn’t be really taken as an academic issue.”

– Paul Impey, history junior

“I actually haven’t ever really heard the statistics, but I would’ve guessed that they’d be way higher than one reported to the UAPD. That kind of scares me, you know?”

– Rachael Plyler, pre-nursing freshman

“They need some organization, especially by women, and then women can freely report that kind of experience and then after that they should report to policemen.”

– Yoonkyeong Ahn, physiology sophomore

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