By ARDEN IGLEHEART
A 16-year-old girl reported being raped while unconscious at a Pi Kappa Phi fraternity party at USF on the night of Oct. 1, according to The Tampa Bay Times. During a police investigation, Dillon LaGamma, a 19-year-old brother of the fraternity, confirmed that he had sex with the unconscious girl, according to an affidavit. Pi Kappa Phi’s national office suspended the USF chapter of the fraternity.
Brandon Williams, a senior athletic training and human performance major and president of UT’s Interfraternity Council, thinks that the fraternity was right to suspend the USF chapter. The news of the assault at USF particularly hit home with him, because a member of his family had an experience with sexual violence.
Williams acknowledges that Greek Life particularly has problems with sexual assault nationwide, and hopes to prevent cases at UT. Fraternities in the past have had events to educate their members about sexual assault. They have had various speakers come to campus, as well as a Green Light Go event, which stressed the importance of affirmative consent.
“We don’t want to fit that stereotype,” Williams said. “We don’t want to enhance that stereotype. We want to combat the negative stereotype in a positive way.”
Affirmative consent is not only something that UT’s fraternities stress — it is the definition of consent on UT’s campus. This year, Student Conduct added definitions on UT’s website under the Rights and Responsibilities tab.
“Consent: is defined as informed, voluntary, and mutual agreement to the specific sexual contact evidenced by a clear expression in words or actions,” the website states.
Monnie Wertz, assistant to the vice president for operations and planning who also oversees Victim Advocacy and the Student of Concern program, said that people are often told “no means no” when it comes to consent, but at UT, “yes means yes.”.
“On our campus, you have to have a verbal ‘yes’ or a nonverbal ‘yes,’” Wertz said. “If it comes to our attention that someone is accusing someone else of assault, we’re going to ask you, why did you think this was okay? And you can’t say something to me like ‘well she seemed really into me’ or ‘he didn’t say no’ or ‘they just didn’t say anything.’”
This also means that sex with an unconscious person, like in the USF case, is never okay, even if the person seemed like they were enjoying it before they lost consciousness. If UT students have questions about consent, they can contact Victim Advocacy at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Tim Nelson, the university’s Title IX coordinator.
USF reported three rapes in 2015 and six in 2014, according to The Tampa Bay Times. UT reported 3 rapes or attempted rapes on campus in 2015 and none in 2014, according to the school’s crime report. Under the Jeanne Clery Act, the school is required to make crime reports like sexual assault public record. However, Clery reports on UT’s website are not necessarily indicative of activity on campus. Campus safety’s records show five reported incidents of sexual misconduct on campus in 2015. Campus safety director Kevin Howell says that sexual assault reports to advocates or health professionals don’t get filed through campus safety.
Shelley Gress, a senior criminology major and president of Spartans Creating a Culture of Consent, a new club on campus, thinks that the low rates of sexual assault are partly the result of underreporting. Two out of every three rapes go unreported, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“There’s such a rape culture in the world, and on campus but just in the world, where people look down on the victims instead of the rapists themselves and so they don’t come forward because they feel like they’re going to be blamed,” Gress said.
Spartans Creating a Culture of Consent, or SC3, is the replacement of the UT chapter of OneStudent, a national organization that educates college students about sexual assault. OneStudent focused on every aspect of sexual violence, but SC3 narrowed their focus down to educating students about consent and providing proper resources to victims of sexual violence.
“Statistics show that someone who is assaulted tells one person, that’s the average; even if they tell anyone at all, it’s just one,” Gress said. “So that becomes the concern, because if they tell the wrong person, it’s not going to be reported. Hopefully, we can change that.”
The only places on campus students can report incidents confidentially are Victim Advocacy or a counselor, according to Wertz. Otherwise, students can report them to Campus Safety or anyone from the university that they trust, such as a Reslife staff member or a faculty advisor. Faculty and staff members like them have an obligation to report it to Campus Safety.
Victim Advocacy provides the most resources, according to Wertz. Victim Advocacy also works with dating and domestic violence victims and helps students through any path they want to take in responding to that incident. Wertz stressed that everyone is different, and reporting to police might not be the best choice for everyone.
“Some students, I will hear from the minute they’ve realized what’s happened,” Wertz said. “They will call us, and they’re angry, and they want this person to go to jail. They want to call the police; they want to do all those types of things. And then I have students who maybe I hear from them the next day and they’re really unsure what’s going on, they maybe aren’t sure how they feel about it yet, so they just want some time to kind of do all that, which is fine, and we want to give them that space to do all that.”
Victim Advocacy can help mentor students through the court system, not only to get justice for crimes, but also to get restraining orders or other legal protections. They can work with Student Conduct to get no-contact orders, or with Residence Life or faculty to move a student to a different residence hall or a different class if a student lives in a dorm or has class with the perpetrator. Victim Advocacy can also hook up students with counselors from the Wellness Center, or with local therapists and support groups outside of the school.
If students want to report to someone outside of the school, they can go to local police, a local therapist, or the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, which does victim advocacy and forensic medical exams. If a student wants a forensic medical exam, the crisis center can pick them up and transport them there. Recipients of forensic medical exams do not have to press charges, so Wertz encourages anyone who thinks they might ever want to press charges to get one. The center can hold the results for up to one year.
Wertz and Gress also mentioned ways that students can try to prevent sexual assault from occurring.
Wertz said that students should be mindful about the alcohol that they are consuming. In her 24 years as a victim advocate for the school, only two of the cases she has worked with did not involve alcohol. Wertz said students should note how much they are drinking, watch the bartender make their drink, and if they leave their drink unattended for a time period, should get a new one. She recommended an app called Watch Your BAC, in which users input their drinks into the app and it calculates their blood alcohol levels.
Staying together with friends and not leaving any friend alone is also important, Wertz said.
“We really encourage students to look out for each other,” Wertz said. “If four people go out, four people need to come back together.”
Students should also intervene in situations that they think are unsafe, Wertz said. If students don’t feel comfortable directly intervening, they can call Campus Safety, local police, or tell the bouncer at a club.
Wertz said that victims of sexual assault should not feel that they have to report it, but encourages them to.
“At the end of the day, it is not a victim’s fault that they’ve become assaulted,” Wertz said. “There are people out there who are looking to perpetrate violence. They are going to take advantage of situations that present themselves; they are going to create situations in which this can occur. At the end of the day, it’s that person’s fault. We want to make sure that we stress that because a lot of students don’t come forward and get services they need, or don’t come forward and report that behavior because they feel like it’s their fault and it just isn’t.”
Vaughn Center, room 210A
Medical and Counseling Services:
Dickey Health and Wellness Center
Office of Student Conduct:
Vaughn Center, room 202
Office of Campus Safety:
ICB, First Floor
Tim Nelson, Title IX Coordinator for Students:
Vaughn Center, room 202
Hillsborough County Police:
911 or 813-247-8200.
The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay:
Suicide hotline, victim advocacy, forensic medical exams, financial and relocation assistance
(813) 264-9961 or 211
The Spring of Tampa Bay:
Domestic violence shelter, support groups
Hillsborough County Domestic Violence Victim Assistance
State Attorney’s domestic violence unit. Victim advocacy, food pantry, clothes
Alpha House of Tampa Bay:
Shelter for pregnant women in crisis situations
National Center for Victims of Crime:
Points victims to various local resources
RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest Network):
Points victims to various local resources
Arden Igleheart can be reached at email@example.com.