UT students face growing sexual assault epidemic

by Sydney Rhodes

In the early hours of Saturday, Oct. 13, a sexual misconduct between two students was reported on campus at UT. The incident occurred in a dorm room of Austin Hall and was recorded by authorities at 1 a.m. Since Tampa Police officers are present on campus Thursday-Saturday from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., they were able to attend to the report and the students involved.  

After the officers took photographs and clothing as evidence, the event resulted in a judicial referral, which is a formal written request to proceed with judicial enforcement relating to the violations in questions.

“Essentially, this was a criminal offense of sexual assault that occurred in one of our on campus dorm rooms at UT,” said Samuel Ponce, assistant director of Campus Safety. “When there’s a crime reported, we immediately call Tampa Police and work hand and hand with them to determine the case.”

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSCRC), more than 27 percent of women and 15 percent of men have experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact during their time in college. Additionally, more than 90 percent of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault.

The three dorm halls that have opened after the fall of 2012 feature an automatic locking system on resident doors, so that every room requires a key access. These halls include Carol and Frank Morsani Hall, Jenkins Hall, and the Palm Apartments.

However, the older halls, like Austin Hall, on UT’s campus do not include the automatic locking system and require students to lock their doors themselves before leaving. Most students tend to leave their door unlocked for convenience.

“One of the big safety tips we recommend on campus is to always lock your door, even if your door doesn’t automatically lock,” said Ponce. “Unfortunately we haven’t been able to replace the locks with the automatic ones in every hall yet.”

Although most halls on campus don’t have self locking doors, every resident hall does require a student ID to either enter the building or elevators. While this prevents non-students from getting into buildings, it doesn’t restrict UT students from accessing others’ rooms within the building they live in.

“My roommates and I keep our door unlocked, but it definitely worries me to do so after this happened,” said resident in Brevard Hall, Gabriela Orlando, sophomore and allied health major. “I think it’s sad that we haven’t figured out how to prevent this from happening in our country. We talk about it so much and yet it feels like these attacks are worsening.”

Campus Safety continues to remind the students of UT to never leave by yourself especially in the late hours, to always lock room doors before leaving so that students don’t run into similar situations, and of course, to say something if you see something.

“I’ve noticed that there are no cameras in the hallways of some dorms, including Austin and my own dorm,” said resident in Brevard Hall, Monika Brill, sophomore and marketing major. “And I think many issues could be prevented if there were. Hearing about this event was definitely an eye opener and makes me want to change the things I do to stay safe on campus.”

Sydney Rhodes can be reached at sydney.rhodes@theminaretonline.com

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