Battling sexual assault on campus
One in four women reported being sexually assaulted during their undergraduate term on college campuses, according to a newly released study by the Association of American University,
UH was not among the universities that participated in the study. With Houston’s crime record in mind, however, the results of nearby college cities were startling.
UH faced six forcible sex offenses in 2011, two in 2012 and a jump to 10 in 2013, according to the University of Houston’s Annual Security and Fire Safety Report,
Although the 2014 record has not been released, in a city like Houston — the third most dangerous city in the nation — it’s not hard to guess what the results may be.
UH Police Department Lieutenant Bret Collier said there is a lack in assaults and actual reporting by the victims. As a result, they have continued to provide more ways to report sexual assaults.
“It’s important to remember that the numbers we publish aren’t the number of sexual assaults occurring, only the number reported,” Collier said. “It’s clear that there are incidents happening that ultimately do not get reported.”
Regardless, UH has acted in a “proactive way,” said Program Coordinator of the Women and Gender Resource Center Malkia Hutchinson.
“(The) University of Houston (is) doing a lot more,” Hutchinson said. “It’s not just a matter of compliance. “They are trying to be proactive. They are wanting to protect their students.”
Included in this proactive approach are tabling events, programs at dorms and campaigns advocating for students to inform themselves about sexual assaults and to use social media to their advantage.
Hutchinson said that in the past, universities were able to “get away with things” and not be held accountable when they did not comply with federal regulations. As time has shown, this sleazy behavior is not prominent anymore.
Education Opportunity Services at the University focuses on preventing sexual assaults on campus. When assaults happen, EOS listens to both sides as a neutral mediator. When consequences need to be decided, EOS throws the gauntlet. When the student body needs to be educated on the difference between consent and rape, EOS is educating.
Erika Harrison, an EOS, said her office delegates two major programs, Coogs Get Consent and Bystander Intervention, aimed “to educate students on the University of Houston Policy so they are aware of what type of behavior is prohibited.”
“We encourage members of our community to be direct in confronting inappropriate behavior, delegate to an appropriate (authority) like the police or create a distraction to diffuse the situation.”
Along with these two programs, the UH Women and Gender Resource Center collaborates with The Student Program Board to host Take Back The Night, a “national day of action bringing attention to rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment on college campuses,” according to a TBTN flyer.
Every campus is different in how they execute the activities. This year, UH will have Lady Caress emcee the night as students listen to victims, walk around campus with members of these groups along with UHPD to designate and create safe zones around campus for students to become more aware and relaxed as they walk around campus. The event will be held Oct. 1 at the Lynn Eusan Park from 7 to 9 p.m.
“I encourage people to do as much as they can to inform themselves,” Hutchinson said. “Social media is a great tool. Go through hashtags, and find out why people did not come forward about sexual assaults. For people who haven’t thought about these issues, open (your) eyes – it happens more common than you think.”