National Organization Aims to Make UT S.A.F.E.R.

Following last week’s special section on sexual assaults on campuses, The Minaret was contacted by a representative of Students Active for Ending Rape (S.A.F.E.R.), a national non-profit organization dedicated to provide institutional changes to prevent sexual assault on college campuses.

The organization stresses the importance of policy-level directives and institutional frameworks as the university’s responsibility to help prevent sexual assault rather than only urging students to talk with each other.

“The University of Tampa seems to be in this case a classic example of a school trying to do the right thing for its students, but often not succeeding,” said Nora Niedzielski-Eichner, board member of S.A.F.E.R., Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University.

She suggests that there are substantial changes that UT hasn’t implemented:

S.A.F.E.R. says that prevention programs should not just focus on what women should do to avoid being attacked but rather on the societal causes of sexual assault.

When a program focuses only on telling women what they should or shouldn’t do, it is in effect blaming the victims.

The prevention programs UT currently has are mostly aimed at showing what a person should not do, such as go to a party and get drunk.

The organization also says that there should be crisis counselors appropriately trained to counsel marginalized populations such as ethnic and religious minorities, as well as homosexuals and disabled people.

According to this, UT should fund mandatory annual training for all sexual assault crisis services providers, including at least a few hours for each person in issues related to same-sex sexual assault and sexual assault toward minorities.

Sexual assault should also be clearly defined and broken up into categories. Currently, the UT website outlines what it calls “sexual misconduct.” However, there are no distinctions that show the severity of each type of sexual misconduct.

UT is also not doing everything it can as far as disciplinary sanctions, according to S.A.F.E.R.. They are not clearly determined for each category of sexual assault, as any violation of “sexual misconduct” results in a minimum pending suspension.

Also, disciplinary sanctions don’t currently include mandatory counseling for perpetrators who are not expelled, a step that could be beneficial to the campus community.

There is also not a clear appeals process for both the complainants and the accused- just for the accused.

S.A.F.E.R. also says that conduct panelists should be adequately trained in issues of evidence evaluation in sexual assault cases, psychological effects of the cases, post-traumatic stress disorder, and common stereotypes and misconceptions. UT could improve in many of these areas, according to S.A.F.E.R..

Though UT can implement a few new policies to help protect students, there are many things UT policy is doing correctly.

UT is increasing its prevention efforts, as next year there will be a new section added to AlcoholEdu for incoming freshmen about sexual assault.

UT residence halls, and for the most part, bathrooms, are adequately secure.

From time to time, UT also offers self-defense classes for students, usually as a nighttime activity.

Crisis counseling is also available 24 hours, 7 days a week, or at least a hotline is.

UT has a system of anonymous reporting. Complaints are also provided immunity from disciplinary action for minor offenses such as underage drinking.

Complaints and accused students are also allowed access to a support person of their choice during the hearings.

The above policies and the student code of conduct are currently under review and it remains to be seen how many of these policies will be implemented next fall.

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