New guidelines to combat sexual assault may be a step in the right direction for universities

By Nicole Montero/Staff Writer

Reacting to publicized rapes on college campuses across the nation, the White House has released new guidelines requiring colleges to comply with new campus safety and security requirements aimed at curbing sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.

The proposed rule, formally published in the Federal Register on June 20, would implement changes to the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, under the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, which President Barack Obama signed last year.

Under the regulations, institutions would be required to compile statistics for incidents of dating violence, domestic violence and stalking, in addition to the currently compiled statistics for sexual assaults and other crimes.

Among the many recommendations, the White House urges universities across the country to ensure that reports of sexual crime cases remain confidential, as well as to conduct anonymous surveys and adopt anti-assault policies.

Whitney Bauman, assistant professor for the Department of Religious Studies and a part of the Women’s Studies Center, believes that the efforts are a step in the right direction and that they could bring awareness to such issues.

“I don’t believe that anything we do will be enough until the problem is solved,” he said. “But I also think that these efforts are a step in the right direction for dealing with the problem and forcing universities to take a long look at what’s going on in their campuses— the first step is always recognition.”

Other notable changes include: adopting the FBI’s revised, more inclusive definition of rape; requiring institutions to ensure that their disciplinary proceedings in response to alleged incidents of dating and domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking are prompt, fair and impartial; specifying requirements for university programs to prevent sexual crimes; and strengthening protections for victim confidentiality.

To help institutions with these changes, the government will be launching the website to track enforcement and provide victims with information.

“The website is quite helpful because it has resources for students and schools,” Bauman said. “We should have this link available to our students because the student’s well-being should always be our first priority.”

He also proposes that FIU start brainstorming a way to combat issues of sexual assaults.

To this, he offers an idea: to have a town hall-style meeting in the fall to discuss sex crimes and come to an agreement on how the University should act.

“If one in five people were being tazed in the face in FIU’s campus every day, then you can bet that there would be a huge meeting about it and people would be dealt with accordingly,” he said.

Bauman believes that it is important for FIU to meet and to find a way to help the problem as a community. According to him, sexual assaults are problems that exist in sexist cultures and, because it is historically set in that culture, it is silent.

Cynthia Rodriguez, sophomore majoring in health service administration, also believes the University should meet to discuss how they will be combating these issues. She also emphasizes the importance of having anonymous methods.

“I think that the anonymous surveys and the gathering of statistics can work to get a better idea of the number of students who have actually experienced these crimes at FIU,” she said.

Rodriguez does not necessarily think that everything must be anonymous, but she believes that the option to be anonymous should always be there. According to her, many students are embarrassed to talk about their experiences openly— especially males.

“Men suffer the same emotional turmoil as women but are probably less likely to report cases of assault due to fears of being laughed at or ignored,” she said.

In fact, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey, 38 percent of rape and sexual violence incidents are against men, with 46 percent of male victims reporting female perpetrators.

Another student, Stephanie Olayon, sophomore psychology major, believes that the guidelines set for universities will better the problem. Nevertheless, she has difficulty believing that the situation will have a perfect solution.

“I don’t think that this problem will ever go away because there will always be people that do this sickening thing to others— be it male or female,” she said.

However, Olayon also said that she was pleased with the government for bringing attention to issues of sexual assaults and opening the eyes of various students and universities.

The University’s sex assault numbers have remained low since 2010, according to the University Police Department annual security report. However, the most recent sex offense case, according to the online police crime log, was this past April in the Green Library, and the case remains an open investigation.

A sex offense case that occurred last April at the Green Library remains "open," according to the online police crime log.

Though there are many questions about the effectiveness of the White House’s task force and new guidelines, Bauman remains optimistic.

“This is a huge epidemic and I am glad that it has been becoming less violent and less acceptable in society,” he said. “FIU should embrace these new policies and actually go above and beyond what the recommendations are.”

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