ISU works to focus on sexual assault policies


Madisen Smith & Emily Hecht/Iowa State Daily

The above graphic compares the amount of sexual assault cases between 2012 and 2013.

Makayla Tendall

Iowa State has had an increase in reported sexual assaults since 2012. Iowa State University’s Office of Equal Opportunity has policies in place to deal with and improve how they deal with sexual assault.

According to the annual crime report, Iowa State had 13 reported sex offenses in 2013, an increase of 3 from 2012. Eleven of the 13 reported offenses were forcible rape. No arrests were made for sex offenses in 2013.

However, reported sexual assaults are not necessarily indicative of the actual amount of sexual assaults that may have occurred, said Natasha Oren, campus prevention and outreach employee for ACCESS assault care center in Ames.

“In the general community the rate of reporting isn’t representative of the rate of actual sexual assaults. It’s misleading to use the rate of reporting as an indicator of how much sexual assault is occurring,” Oren said.

Robinette Kelley, director of the Office of Equal Opportunity said Iowa State’s policy is the federal Title XI policy on equal education opportunities for men and women. This policy centers on the fact Iowa State will not tolerate sexual misconduct of any kind and abides by local, state and federal requirements for intervention and reporting of sexual misconduct.

The university’s definition for sexual assault and misconduct includes forcible anal, oral and vaginal sexual acts such as rape, groping and physical touching. The university also has a specific definition for sexual consent.

Kelley said the most important way to combat sexual assault is to change the attitude about sexual misconduct in the community, a goal she has been working toward.

“You’re going to have more incidents than you’re going to have reported. But if you’re changing campus culture to notify faculty and staff that they’re responsible if they know about these things, students may feel more comfortable in reporting. You may expect to see an increase in [reporting],” Kelley said. “There’s no way to know for sure how many [atacks] actually occur as get reported.”

The recent rise in the report of sexual assaults at the University of Iowa has resulted in a mass email to students when a report is filed. It is unknown if the recent rise is the cause of new assaults or past assaults being reported.

Oren said such timely warnings may be detrimental to victims and their tendency to report because it could put victims in the spotlight.

“I still think there are ways to let students know there are sexual assaults happening on our campus that are better and don’t put the victim on the spot,” Oren said. “A lot of our victims decide to delay report; they need to wait till they are at a point in their healing where they feel safe.”

Kelley said the Office of Equal Opportunity has many counseling programs to help victims of sexual assault, such as ACCESS, the Sloss Women’s Center and the department of public safety that work closely with ACCESS to empower victims and work with them if they want to file reports and press charges.

Kelley said the Office of Equal Opportunity also initiates many preventative programs such as the sexual misconduct and leadership committee.

“One of my goals is to notify people about the office, so I’ve done a lot of outreach and training [with] our graduate assistants and our teaching assistants, [and] our undergraduate departments have requested training,” Kelley said. “We have a committee focused on community and strengthening our relationship with the community.”

Kelley also works with ISU police officers on a regular basis, training them on how to handle sexual assault cases. Kelley also regularly travels to residence buildings to train community advisers (C.A.) and hall directors on how they can best prevent students from committing and becoming victims of sexual assault. Students and staff have and will continue to take part in Title IX federal training.

Kelley said the sexual misconduct leadership committee is currently weighing the value of peer education in which students can interact with other students and teach them about sexual assault prevention. Kelley said this type of education would be more effective than demonstrations like PowerPoints.

When asked about preventative programs for potential sexual offenders, Kelley said the leadership committee is discussing those programs. At this time — and in the past — the Department of Residence and ISU Police have worked together to teach incoming students the importance of clear sexual consent.

Oren said while it is important to talk about sexual consent, it is not always effective in preventing assault as sexual assault is based on gaining power and control for the offenders. She said research shows that rapists plan and premeditate their attacks.

“A common misconception is that sexual assault accidentally happens,” Oren said. “The research shows that that’s not really the case.”

These characteristics make it difficult to get through to potential perpetrators.

“I don’t believe that it’s a lack of knowledge about what consent is and that you shouldn’t [sexually assault someone] is at the root of sexual assault,” Oren said about offenders who strive to gain power over victims.

“It’s not really that if they hear me talk about sexual assault one day in class — which I do talk about consent because it’s important and it’s hard to ask — but I don’t believe that if they hear me talk in class one day that that’s going to make them stop being a perpetrator,” Oren said. “I wish. That would be awesome. I would love to be out of a job.”

Oren said it is equally as important to focus on bystander education and give bystanders the skills to step-in before or after a sexual assault.

“Eleven out of 12 men are good men — and I don’t know what that number is for women. Let’s use those 11 to rule out the few perpetrators we have out there because they’re statistically a smaller number than all the awesome people we have out there.”