The issue of sexual assault on college campuses is a growing concern for many universities across the nation. In recent months, many colleges like Columbia have faced criticism regarding to how they handle reported cases of sexual assault.
A total of three sexual offenses have been reported in 2013, seven in 2012 and three in 2011, according to UT’s Annual Security report. The statistics show offenses reported on campus in residence halls, campus property and non-campus property (Barrymore hotel, formerly known as the Howard Johnson). Reported offenses occurring off-campus, and offenses reported to counselors (due to confidentiality) are not included in the security report numbers.
UT’s code of conduct describes how students attending the university are expected to behave. Students are protected from discrimination based on gender in any educational program or activity which operates on federal financial assistance, according to Appendix I, Article IX.
Article IX also considers sexual harassment, which includes sexual violence as a form of sexual discrimination. The code defines sexual misconduct as any sexual act that occurs when the victim is unable to provide consent (intelligent, knowing and voluntary agreement). The code of conduct provides definitions of terms you may have heard before, but aren’t necessarily clear about defining sexual harassment, public indecency, voyeurism and sexual battery. Should a student find themselves guilty of sexual battery, depending on their case, sanctions can include suspension with termination of residency to being expelled from the university.
“Bystander education programs are becoming more popular and proving to be effective means of educating students on how to contribute to a safer campus environment,” said Monnie Wertz, Chair of the Student of Concern Committee.
UT has recently teamed up with the national sexual assault education group, One Student (onestudent.org), in order to develop an educational program for UT students regarding the issues of sexual and relationship violence.
There are precautions that you can take while out with friends to reduce the risk of potentially dangerous situations.
“Being aware of resources to utilize if you see a potentially dangerous situation, awareness of the inaccuracies of many myths about sexual violence, awareness of our own limits, awareness of general safety practices such as traveling in groups and not leaving intoxicated friends alone will go very far in preventing this type of crime,” Wertz said.
To remove any hesitation about reporting, the school will not pursue any potential violations of the victim/survivor that may have occurred at the time of the sexual assault. For example, if the victim was engaging in underage drinking, he or she would not receive any consequences. There are three options available to students who need to report a case of sexual assault: Title IX, student conduct or through the Tampa Police Department. Students can use one or all of these reporting options. There are 37 security personnel on campus, with officers patrolling 24 hours a day.
Title IX includes a variety of regulations that apply to each college campus in the country. Even if a report is not made, if school officials have knowledge of an assault, they must investigate what occurred and take steps to resolve the situation. It is required for every school to have a policy against sexual assault and for that policy to be accessible and handed out on campus.
UT has responded to the Title IX regulations by establishing deputies to focus on certain areas, according to Timothy Harding, Associate Dean of Career Development and Engagement. The Title IX Coordinator, Donna Popovich, Executive Director of Human Resources at the University of Tampa is responsible for appointing Title IX Deputies who assist her in implementing the regulations of Title IX.
“The University of Tampa has a well-trained team of individuals who immediately take action upon receiving allegations,” said Harding. “Depending on the situation, these individuals will meet to discuss approaches to investigations, when needed; recommendations for remedies; and other courses of actions to protect student safety.”
It is Harding’s responsibility to investigate alleged student-on-student harassment and sexual violence. Qualifications for this position include training, which is provided by national higher education professional associations, and may include: seminars, conferences, workshops, or webinars. Harding also has a certificate in Student Affairs Policy and Law from Stetson University and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.
“I would encourage that it is never too late to report,” said Wertz. “While physical evidence may be lost in later reporting, students may get rape kits done at the Crisis Center without filing a police report and the Title IX and student conduct programs accept reports at any time.”
In the 2013-2014 year, two students who reported rape cases to the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay attended UT. There were seven reports where students chose not to identify which school they attended.
Amanda Brennan, Victims Advocate from the Crisis Center, said a third of victims will choose to report or seek services.
“It is important to note that this data is based on what our clients tell us,” Brennan said. “If they don’t want us to know they go to UT, they don’t have to inform us.”
At the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, Sexual Assault Services provides a forensic exam, in which a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner will collect any possible evidence. Clients are provided with preventive medications to protect themselves against STDs and unwanted pregnancies.
Regardless of whether a client has filed a report with law enforcement, the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay will hold their evidence for up to a year in case the client changes their mind.
Sexual assault continues to be a major problem both on and off college campuses. Awareness and education of these events is essential in the fight to reduce their occurrences in the future.
For more information regarding Title IX, visit: http://www.ut.edu/rightsandresponsibilities/#6
Brianna Kwasnik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.