Three sexual assaults during Sexual Assault Awareness Month

By Masaki Sugimoto

With Sexual Assault Awareness Month coming to a close, it is evident that there was an added emphasis on sexual assault issues. These happened through programs held by the University, activists and the three notices students received reporting sexual assaults.

The three sexual assaults cases are still under investigation and occurred within a short time frame in April. The first two happened on April 9, during Mom’s weekend, both at fraternity houses that were not identified. The most recent case occurred Sunday, April 17, near Burrill Hall.

Pat Wade, spokesman for the University of Illinois Police Department, said that not everyone reports sexual assaults to the police. Wade said there have only been 12 to 13 reported sexual assaults on campus this year.

Sexual assault is a vastly underreported crime, Wade said, and statistics show that one in five women and one in 16 men experience an actual or attempted sexual assault during their college career.

“We know that it (Sexual Assault) is happening more than it is being reported and we really don’t have a good grasp as to how prevalent it is on campus,” he said. “We do hope that the people that have experienced sexual assault seek out resources.”

There are different ways for people to report to the police. The first way is by reporting the incident to the Champaign Police Department. Another way is through campus security employees, similar to mandated reporters who have to tell the police when an incident occurs.

“When we get a report from the campus security authority, a third party person who somehow heard something, we use that for notification and data tracking purposes,” Wade said.

The three sexual assault instances are not an indication of an increase in sexual assault, but rather an indication of an increase in people reporting the assaults, he said.

This past month, the Women’s Resources Center along with the UIPD and other participators held events throughout April. Some of the events included the Red Flag Campaign, the Stop Telling Women to Smile lecture by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, Denim Day, and the Take Back the Night march.

Molly McLay, assistant director of the Women’s Resources Center and coordinator of FYCARE, said she sees an increase in dialogue surrounding these sensitive subjects due to outside forces such as technology and federal influence.

“Because there has been a lot more attention, people have been more concerned about it. I think social media and technology that allows people to share their story more and activists to connect to each other allows for information and ideas to be shared,” McLay said. “Also, when people in power are in a position to do more about it, that brings more attention to (sexual assault) as well.”

An example of a person in power doing this would be Vice President Joe Biden. For many years, he worked to bring awareness to sexual assault. He is one of the primary authors for the Violence Against Women’s Act in 1994. But it wasn’t until he was the Vice President that he was able to use his prominence to bring attention to the issue with the “It’s on Us” campaign.

Biden promoting funding for sexual assault awareness has brought the issue to the federal government, McLay said. She also said that the University has taken steps to create more programs and increase the conversation about sexual assault, such as launching the iCARE class.

McLay said the resource center has reached 1,000 students this year and has reached 9,500 students through FYCARE. Furthermore, the follow up study done by FYCARE during the 2014-2015 school year indicated that a lot of people have used the FYCARE information to support survivors and provide bystander intervention.

Janessa Vela, freshman in DGS, said she hadn’t thought much about sexual assault because she’s careful to be aware of her surroundings.

“I take many precautions when going out with friends, and I always go out and come back with a group of people. We also have tons of resources on campus like Safe Rides and Safe Walks,” Vela said.

She also said that sexual assault has a lot to do with who you trust.

“You can’t trust everyone. If some people say do this or drink this, you have to think for yourself,” Vela said. “I just feel like if you are alone and you’re with a bunch of guys, the instinct is to go and get out of the situation.”

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