University offers defense classes, other resources to aid victims of rape, sexual assault

Published by adviser, Author: Stehpanie Cheek - Rocket Contributor, Date: September 27, 2012
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Every student on campus receives emails whenever the administration feels that there is a threat on campus, and sexual assault has become one of the most talked about of these threats. But very few students actually know the protocols that SRU and its campus police have regarding the issue.

Sexual assault is often just thought to be rape, but according to Women’s Center director Jodiann Solito, “Sexual assault can range from unwanted touching to rape.” Consent is permission for someone to physically be with another, and what many college students do not know is that no one can give legal consent while intoxicated, Solito said.

According to Solito, the Women’s Center is prepared to help if anyone is sexually assaulted on or near the campus, no matter the gender, with the help from the campus police, the Counseling Center, and Health Center.

The Women’s Center’s protocol starts as soon as the student first comes forward as a victim. The first and main concern of every office on campus is if they are physically okay. Then, depending on the level of sexual assault, they direct the student to the Health Center and a hospital where a person undergoes a forensic exam. Then the victim has the choice whether or not they want to press charges against the perpetrator, Solito said.

The Women’s Center tries to maintain contact with the victim, even after the assault, by offering several services that can help someone get through that difficult time, according to Solito.

For example, two of the services that are provided include counseling for the victims and the program Victim Outreach Intervention Center (VOICe), where the advocate works with the victim to offer options to make them feel safe and even help with legal proceedings if they choose to go down that road, Solito said.

Along with the Women’s Center, the campus police can play a big role when it comes to sexual assault on campus.

According to SRU’s chief of police Michael Simmons, sexual assaults around Slippery Rock occur mostly off campus causing the campus police to have no jurisdiction in the case. In the case that there is an assault on campus, certain officers are trained on how to handle the circumstances, from the initial report to the investigations, and even help the victims reach help around campus.

“[SRU] has a zero tolerance policy for sexual assault and these types of crimes,” Simmons said. “Most people do not think that this could happen to them until it is too late, so students should practice risk reduction.”
Alcohol is sometimes the main reason that certain situations can get out of control and turn into sexual assault, but it is a matter of making sure that you are always able to take care of yourself, according to Simmons.

Another way that students can feel better protected is by participating in a program called Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.). R.A.D. is a self-defense course that the campus police offers for both men and women to be better suited to take care of themselves and get out of a situation that makes them feel uncomfortable. The last way is teaching students not only how to lower their risks of becoming a victim, but also teach them how to stop being the perpetrator and gain respect for others and their personal space.

“Just because we hear about [sexual assault] more,” Solito said, “does not mean it is happening more. More and more people are coming forward and willingly asking for the help without feeling ashamed.”

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