Reporting a sexual assault on campus

In News

UPDATE: This story was updated with more information about how to report a sexual assault. Parts of the previous version of this story have been deleted. The change was made Feb. 15 at 5 p.m.

CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this article stated that Campus Security Authorities included professors. Only faculty members who have “responsibility for student and campus activity beyond the classroom” meet the criteria to be a CSA, according to the 2016 U.S. Department of Education Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting. The clarification was made Feb. 14 at 11:40 p.m.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article referred to a sexual assault exam unit as “Safe Space.” It was corrected to “Safe Place” Feb. 14 at 12:39 p.m.

Jeanne Clery was 19 years old when she was raped and murdered in her Pennsylvania campus dorm. Now, because of Clery’s story, college campuses all over the country are held to higher safety standards.

The Clery Act requires every college and university in the country to publish their own Annual Security and Fire Safety Report (ASFSR) containing information on policies and programs, crime statistics, available resources for students and instructions on how to report a crime on or around campus.

In 2015, there were four sexual offenses, four cases of domestic violence, two cases of dating violence and seven cases of stalking, according to the 2016 Clery Report.

CSUF has several resources available to help students who have been sexually assaulted. Anyone can report an incident that either happened to them or that they witnessed, and they have the option to say as much or as little as they prefer.

“Talk to somebody. Get some help, or get this off your chest. Get some advice. See what’s out there for you,” said University Police Captain Scot Willey.

According to the Clery Report, students can report a sexual assault by:

  • Calling 911 “when facing immediate harm or threat of harm.”
  • Calling Mary Becerra, Title IX coordinator at (657) 278-2850.
  • Calling the University Police department at (657) 278-2515.
  • Informing a Campus Security Authority, who are defined in the Clery Report.

“There is no shame. When something like this has happened to you, you didn’t bring it on. You didn’t ask for it. It isn’t your fault,” said Mindy Mechanic, psychology professor at CSUF who also researches trauma from sexual violence.

The victim should not bathe, shower, smoke or clean the area where the assault happened so evidence can be preserved and collected, according to the Clery Report.

A university officer can take a survivor to the sexual assault examination unit called “Safe Place,” which is located next to Anaheim Regional Medical Center Emergency Department. 

This facility is the only one like it in Orange County.

Willey said that the “Safe Place” is meant to be as comfortable as possible, so survivors won’t be afraid, frustrated or feel awkward when they come forward. An interview by an officer or detective about the encounter, as well as examinations, are usually conducted there. If desired, law enforcement will then go through the legal actions to prove guilt, Willey said.

Survivors are not required to have evidence collected or take legal action if they don’t want to. A University Police officer can still take them to the nearest hospital if they need medical assistance, as well as check for pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted diseases. The Student Health Center also provides these services.

Mechanic said it is important to not blame oneself.

“The very act of not sharing and holding it all in becomes like a toxic waste dump inside and can create lots of other problems in life,” Mechanic said.

Alyssa Avila, Confidential Victim’s Advocate and Violence Prevention Educator from the WoMen’s Center, said in an email that part of her job is giving survivors the information necessary to make an informed decision with as little stress as possible.

“Either way, what I want victims/survivors to know is that we’re here for them,” Avila said.

For more information on reporting a sexual assault, see the 2016 U.S. Department of Education Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting, the CSUF Title IX website, the CSUF WoMen’s Center website or the Clery Report.

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