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How local universities are tackling sexual assault and violence 

Campus rape persists

click to enlarge The 2017 Women’s March showed legitimate concern for women’s issues. - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • The 2017 Women’s March showed legitimate concern for women’s issues.
It happens here.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, one in every six women you pass has been or will be a victim of sexual assault. On June 26, the Independent reported that Colorado’s sexual assault rate is the third highest in the country according to FBI data from 2016 and 2017.

Undergraduate universities put out a safety report through the Clery Act, a federal statute requiring colleges and universities with federal financial aid programs to report campus crime statistics. Each October, schools release the number of sexually violent acts that students have formally reported over the past year. These crimes include claims of any sexual act (including harassment) that involves violence or coercion.

Most victims of sexual assault are women, and female college students between the ages of 18 and 24 are three times more likely than other age groups to experience sexual violence, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

The #MeToo movement has cast a light on the epidemic of sexual assault, but we wondered what local colleges and universities were doing to keep students safe.

Here’s what we found:

U.S. Air Force Academy

The Air Force Academy processed 33 reported claims of sexual harassment or sexual violence in the 2016-17 school year, and 29 the following year. But those numbers don’t tell the whole story.
Lt. Gen. Jay B. Silveria, the AFA’s superintendent, says the prevalence of sexual assault at the Academy rose from 11.2 to 15.1 percent, according to an anonymous biennial survey. In other words, cadets are reporting less, but sexual violence is occurring more. The same survey found that 46 percent of women at the AFA reported being sexually harassed in the past year.

Recognizing a link between athletics and issues like sexual assault and hazing, the AFA hired Collegiate Sports Associates as third-party consultants to assess its sports community. Silveria says the school is working to develop on-campus formal training programs regarding sexual misconduct. The Academy also established an annual cadet-athlete experiential evaluation, and it’s working on a unique athletic code of conduct for its cadet-athlete handbook.

The AFA, which has long struggled with sexual assault issues, has many programs on campus intended to prevent such violence, including Healthy Relationship Training and Sexual Assault Resistance Training. Started in 2015, about 1,000 cadets now take HRT each year. SART started just last year and is still in development; seven cadets took the class last year.

Silveria seems to want to address the Academy’s sexual assault issue head-on. In a February Congressional address on sexual assault prevention and response at military academies, he was straightforward.

“Sexual violence is about more than sex — it is about exploiting and manipulating disparities in power, and it is about control, and this behavior violates even the most minimal definition of respectful and dignified conduct,” he said. “The bottom line is that if a person cannot adhere to our standards, they have no place at our Academy. They have no place in our Air Force.”

Colorado College

You might think that the staff at Colorado College’s Wellness Resource Center would be delighted by the drop in the number of reported sexual assaults on the CC campus. In 2016, there were 14 on-campus reported rapes; in 2017, that plummeted to eight.

But Anna Thompson, CC’s sexual assault response coordinator, says those numbers aren’t anything to celebrate. Rather, she says, they suggest fewer survivors feel comfortable with formal reporting.

“The process of formal reporting can take up to 60 days,” she says, “and the process can re-traumatize survivors.”

The administrative and legislative processes around reporting claims of sexual violence, including medical examination and court hearings, are what drags out the process.

Nevertheless, the WRC hopes to increase the number of sexual violence survivors who are willing to file a formal report, and to decrease the real number of sexual assaults on campus. One strategy for the latter has been training athletic teams on appropriate behavior, including CC’s hockey team.

Another group, the Student Organization for Sexual Safety, also works with fraternities and other on-campus groups to provide information on sexual safety and consent. But Eloise Kelly, SOSS co-chair, says it’s difficult, if not impossible, to get athletes to show up to their events. “We’ve reached out many times over the years to the hockey team, lacrosse and soccer … we’re not going to keep pushing,” she says.

One event bucked the trend. Working with the WRC, SOSS recently brought in speaker Derek McCoy, a former NFL player who now works with the Project Against Violent Encounters. CC’s newspaper, The Catalyst, reported that McCoy spoke about how toxic masculinity can influence relationship violence. Kelly says several soccer players, the entire lacrosse team and a couple hockey players attended that talk.

Student groups and the WRC also recently organized a “Take Back the Night” event, intended to support victims of sexual violence, which was attended by around 175 students. And the WRC built a “BADASS” program for active bystander training, to help people learn how to intervene and prevent sexual violence.

Pikes Peak Community College

PPCC records show just one reported rape in 2017. It took place on the school’s Centennial campus. In 2016, PPCC had two reports of unwanted fondling. They occurred at two different campuses, Downtown Studio and Rampart Range.

The community college doesn’t have student groups dedicated to preventing or responding to sexual violence, nor does it have an office dedicated to the issue — victims may report through an online form or in-person at the human resources services office.

PPCC does host many events for Sexual Assault Awareness month in April. The Student Life Office says the programming covers everything from contraception to consent, and one week has intensive programming on sexual assault awareness. The campus also invites a sexologist to lecture about consent.

University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs saw reported claims of sexual violence decrease by nearly 67 percent in one year. In 2016, six reports of rape were made on-campus. In 2017, UCCS had one report of rape on-campus and one off-campus.

Amanda Allee, UCCS director of institutional equity and Title IX coordinator, says her office is the first stop for students filing formal claims of sexual violence on campus. But she doesn’t know why the number of reports dropped off.

Steve Linhart, UCCS dean of students, helps students who file reports with scheduling and accommodations. He also sees no obvious reason for the drop in reports but notes that UCCS provides mandatory incoming student trainings for healthy relationships, active bystanders and other sexual assault prevention programming.

“We have been consistent in how we approach students and providing them resources to reach out when they need to,” Linhart says.

There are no student clubs or organizations on UCCS’ campus working with sexual violence prevention. But Ray Fisco, UCCS prevention and outreach manager, says students are becoming a larger part of prevention through the Respect on Campus, or ROC, program, which is run through the Dean of Students Office. The program started about nine years ago with a nearly $500,000 grant from the Office of Violence Against Women in the U.S. Department of Justice. Fisco says work-study students help run ROC programming.

“We are intentional about making sure that we have several programs a month, and then that way we can reach as many students as possible,” Fisco says. “The messaging we have at each table at each event, again, is very intentional about educating the students on what these things are, how to report, where to get help, and what to do if they’re involved in any type of sexual assault/domestic violence issue.”

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