Oct 142009
Authors: Matt Minich

Despite the presence of emergency call boxes along the university’s walkways and the existence of the SafeWalk program, which offers students an escort to and from areas on the campus, CSU students remain at risk for sexual assault.

According to the Office of Women’s Programs and Studies, one in every four women and one in 17 men will survive an attempted or completed sexual assault within their lifetime.

The university’s call boxes and other “risk reduction” approaches, such as self-defense classes, provide a defense against assaults but do not focus enough on education and prevention, Monica Collins, the sexual assault education coordinator for the OWPS, said.

“(The sexual assault suspect) is not a stranger in the bushes,” she said.

“Ninety-seven percent of the time it’s people we hang out with; it’s people we willingly invite into our homes.”

Rather than relying upon defending against lurking predators, the OWPS has shifted its focus to educating men and women alike about sexual assault in an attempt to recognize and prevent the root causes of sexually violent behavior.

“The perpetrator is the only one who can stop a sexual assault,” Collins said.

A group comprised of about 30 student volunteers, called the Student Alliance for Gender Education, works under the OWPS to educate CSU students about sexual assault and gender identity issues. The group teaches hundreds of programs in sororities, fraternities and residence halls.

Because the overwhelming majority of perpetrator’s are male, the office has placed a strong focus on examining the roots of male sexual attitudes as well as carefully outlining the legal definition of consent to flush out common misconceptions.

A person who is too intoxicated to properly make decisions, for example, cannot legally give consent for sexual activity.

Each of the six sexual assaults reported to the CSU Police Department to-date in 2009 involved alcohol, and each of the suspected perpetrators were acquaintances of the victims, CSUPD Detective Adam Smith said. There were two reported sexual assaults reported in 2008.

CSUPD typically handles between two to six sexual assault cases in a year, Smith said. He cautioned that this number should not be taken as any indicator of the number of sexual assaults that actually occur on campus or to CSU students, as sexual assaults often go unreported.

Because of the department’s ties to the university, CSUPD takes a more victim-centered approach to sexual assault cases than most police departments, coordinating with Student Affairs, Housing and Dining Services and the OWPS to work around the victim’s mental and emotional needs.

“The university responds as a whole to these instances to ensure that the needs of the victim are met,” Smith said.

Victims are often referred to the OWPS’s Victims Assistance Office, which provides counseling and other services to about100 sexual assault victims each year, OWPS Assistant Director Kathryn Woods said.

The Victim’s Assistance Office is a resource available to any survivors of sexual assault and can be reached by phone any time of the day or year at (970) 491-7111.

“Whether the university is open or closed, we have advocates on call,” Woods said.

Senior Reporter Matt Minich can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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