University responds to Obama’s push to raise sexual assault awareness

Caleb Riley

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Freshman elementary education major Emily Wallace feels safe on USI’s campus, but sexual assaults are on the rise across the nation.

Last month, President Barrack Obama established the “White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault,” which will be responsible for increasing transparency, enforcement, public awareness and inter-agency coordination to prevent violence and support survivors.

A report released by the White House Council on Women and Girls revealed nearly one in five women and one in 71 men have experienced rape or attempted rape in their lifetimes. The report states some of the highest rates of sexual assault occurs in schools.

“It is awful that this sort of thing happens,” Wallace said. “But most of it is people who know each other and the number of occurrences seems to be low, so I don’t think there is much more we could do.”

She said Obama’s push for men to pressure other men into standing up for women is a nice idea.

“I don’t think it will solve anything because if someone is set in stone that they are going to do certain things, others aren’t going to stop them from doing it,” she said.

When assaults are reported, the Office of Public Safety is able to get involved and investigate, but it can only investigate what it is made aware of, said Stephen Bequette, Public Safety assistant director.

Obama’s research committee has yet to integrate it in a way beneficial to USI, Bequette said.

According to the Clery Report, which all public institutions are required to file with the U.S. Department of Education by Oct. 1, six forcible sex offenses were reported to Public Safety in 2012, up from two in 2011.

Bequette offered advice about how students could protect themselves from sexual assaults on campus.

“Alcohol is usually involved in the cases of this activity having occurred on campus, so that should be taken into consideration,” Bequette said. “Also, students should have a buddy system. Having someone with you is a good idea.”

When sexual assault or rape does transpire and is reported at USI, Public Safety goes to the scene to investigate. If the situation were deemed unsafe, they would request help from the Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office.

Most of the cases deal with people who know each other and aren’t expecting it to happen. Students are able to report the incident anonymously and do not have to press criminal charges against the perpetrator.

“The best way to reduce the number of these occurrences is to just make good choices,” Bequette said.

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