Sexual assault is a fact of life on college campuses across the country. With the possible exception of single gender campuses, (and that is not a guarantee against it) every college campus has its problem with sexual assaults.
Yet all colleges want to bury their heads in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist, to handle it quietly and hope no one notices. No one seems to have theguts to address it head on.
Why can’t colleges be up front and proactive about it, admit that it happens and the university will be active in dealing with it?
I didn’t say stop it, that’s impossible. I say deal with it in an assertive and open manner.
Forest Grove police sergeant Michael Hall, at a recent Coffee with the Cops event at Pacific University, said the biggest problem the police have dealing with assaults on Pacific’s campus is the lack of evidence.
There is a 72-hour window during which physical evidence can be collected. After that window, DNA begins to deteriorate.
Yet many of the assaults that happen at Pacific, don’t place a priority on collecting that evidence. Without that evidence, it becomes harder to prosecute if a student decides to files charges later.
The proper procedure, according to Hall is for the victim to have a physical exam and have the collection of physical evidence as soon after the assault as possible.
The information is then placed in an evidence envelope labeled “Jane Doe” (with a case ID number) and put on the shelf at the police department.
The state recently extended the statute of limitations on reporting rape, meaning the victim has ample time to sort through his or her feelings before deciding to press charges.
But the issue isn’t just facing sexual assault head on. It’s taking victims to get a physical exam after an assault, going with them to report every assault to the Forest Grove police and standing by them throughout the procedure.
The issue includes taking aggressive measures to prevent the assaults.
A study at a Canadian university showed that self-defense training coupled with an aggressive education program cut the number of assaults by 80 percent. So what should the education program be?
Incoming freshman particularly should be presented with the fact that sexual assaults happen, how and why they happen and they should be given strategies to avoid them.
Go to parties in groups, particularly if there will be a lot of strangers there.
Designate a group “chaperone” for the night, a person who has little or nothing to drink and is able to step in if any of the others in the group (or someone not in the group) appear to be losing control.
Don’t go back to your room (or someone else’s room) if you are inebriated and don’t let them into your room.
The person may be extremely nice and polite but that doesn’t mean that won’t change when you are alone with them.
Be careful who you befriend on the internet. Not only are there predators on campus but there also predators outside the university in the Portland community.
Just as I wouldn’t walk through the bad part of a city at 2 a.m. with a Rolex on my arm, gold chains on my neck and a role of bills in my pocket, students shouldn’t put themselves in potentially dangerous situations.
People say students have the right to put themselves in these dangerous situations and they shouldn’t have to worry about something happening to them. I couldn’t agree more, but the sad truth is there are people who have opposing views.
They are looking for vulnerable students who place themselves in these situations to take advantage of them.
Hall can list a number of times when there were (are) male students who cruised from party to party looking for vulnerable victims.
It is the responsibility of Pacific and other colleges to admit that these conditions exist and do their best to prevent them.
While some in the administration may think this would be bad public relations, it can’t be worse than having a $3 million lawsuit flaunted in public by an ambulance chasing attorney like Greg Kahfoury.
The classic example of ignorance was the case of Jeanne Clery.
She started her freshman year unaware that there had been a series of forcible rapes at her new college. The university chose not to warn her or her parents. Before the first semester, she was assaulted and killed. Her death resulted in the passage of the Clery Act in 1998, which requires universities to make their crime statistics available to the public in an expeditious manner.
It would be a shame if something like that had to happen here before Pacific decided to take a proactive approach in the matter.