September is National Campus Safety Awareness Month and Eastern Michigan University’s Department of Public Safety wants to make sure every student knows their rights and what resources are available to them on campus.
In 1990 Congress passed the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act. The Act gave the Department of Education the power to require all postsecondary institutions remain in compliance with federal law by reporting campus crime statistics and security measures to all students and employees by Oct. 1 of each year.
Amended in 1992 as the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, the law requires that colleges afford victims of campus sexual assault basic rights that protect victims and “whistleblowers.” The Act, together with Title IX, creates the framework around how student’s rights are built and enforced in higher education.
This year the Department of Education requested all colleges in the U.S. voluntarily educate all incoming freshmen about sexual assault. Next year this program will be required by law nation wide.
EMU participated in the voluntary training.
“[More than fifteen] staff, faculty and students conducted mandatory gender based violence prevention training for all incoming students participating in new student orientation,” said Reggie Barnes, Director of Diversity and Community Involvement at EMU. “This training was coordinated by the Women’s Resource Center and Counseling and Psychological Services.”
According to The National Survey of Sexual Violence on College Campuses, studies show that 1 out of 6 college women will be the victims of sexual assault. “The Sexual Victimization of College Women” published by the U.S. Department of Education in 2000 says that for every 1,000 women attending a college or university there may be 35 incidents of rape per academic year.
These crimes are not new to college campuses, but are becoming more widely known by the public because of changes to the Clery Act on how colleges must report crime statistics to its community.
“Most importantly they [the public] are becoming more comfortable with the reporting,” said EMU DPS Crime Prevention Coordinator, Officer Candace Dorsey. “That has to do with some of the educational pieces and letting our students know we are there for them and how we prosecute [the offender] and how we help them through the process.”
According to Dorsey, a mixture of educational programs for men and women about what sexual assault is, coupled with self-defense programs to help potential victims stop sexual assault are the best methods colleges have in combatting sexual assault.
Another problem colleges must deal with is the presence of alcohol on campuses. According to the study, Prosecuting alcohol-facilitated Sexual Assault, in 50 percent of all assaults committed by men alcohol has been present in their systems. 97 percent of alcohol-related sexual assaults are a result of both parties drinking says “Alcohol-Related Sexual Assault: A Common Problem among College Students”.
“We know that alcohol is involved in the vast majority of sexual assaults,” says Ellen Collier, Director of EMU’s Women’s Resource Center. “If you are a perfectly nice person and you start drinking and you become a perpetrator, you should watch alcohol consumption.”
Collier says the Women’s Resource Center is always there for victims to help them in any way they can, even if it is just walking them to DPS to file a report. At the moment, she and her staff are required to report all assaults they are aware of to DPS, but the victim’s identity will always remain confidential if that is their wish.
The Women’s Resource Center and DPS are currently working together to provide EMU students with the best possible protection and support they can.
“We do have a sexual assault unit within the department that is specially trained and continues to get trained,” says Chief of Police Bob Heighes. “The University is always going to side on the side of safety.”
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