On the rise: how Iowa State community is changing the conversation around sexual assault


Peter Lemken/Iowa State Daily

Information courtesy of Iowa State Police Department’s crime logs. 

Willa Colville and Thomas Hugo

On Dec. 6, Time Magazine released its “Person of the Year” issue, honoring a person for significant accomplishments over the last year.

After President Donald Trump was awarded the honor in 2016, people took to social media with who they hoped would grace the cover of the magazine in 2017.

This year, the honor went to not one person, but a group of people coming out against sexual harassment and assault in the entertainment industry and in the country.

They were ‘The Silence Breakers’ — those who came forward and said ‘#MeToo,’ a hashtag and a movement that united men and women who had been victims of sexual harassment and assault.

When several actresses came forward with sexual assault allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein, more and more people came forward with their stories, empowering not only those in the entertainment and media industries, but ordinary people who would no longer be silent.

TIME’s article tells the stories of men and women from all backgrounds, from actors, singers and news anchors to housekeepers, engineers and entrepreneurs.

Not every person named in the story was famous. In fact, many of them were average men and women, tired of being silent and being silenced by those around them.

According to TIME’s article, “Discussions of sexual harassment in polite company tend to rely on euphemisms: harassment becomes “inappropriate behavior,” assault becomes “misconduct,” rape becomes “abuse.” These conversations have reached college campuses, and have become more prevalent with each day.

However, the culture is changing.

With prevention programs and police campaigns being promoted across campus, Iowa State is aiming to steer the conversation around sexual assault away from victim blaming and towards education, prevention and reporting assaults when they happen.

With the implementation of Student Wellness’s Green Dot program, ISU Police’s “We Care. Please Tell Us” campaign and other efforts over the course of the year, the university is aiming to prevent instances of sexual violence on campus and foster an environment where victims can feel safe reporting their assault to the police.

Start by Believing: ISU PD promotes trust and support between victims and law enforcement

Over the last 10 years, Iowa State has had an increase in sexual assaults reported on campus.

Sexual assault includes forcible rape, forcible sodomy, sexual assault with an object, forcible fondling, incest, statutory rape or any other sexual contact without consent.

According to the Iowa State Safety Report, there were four sexual assaults reported to the Iowa State Police Department in 2007. In 2017, there have been 13 reported sexual assaults so far, with no arrests made. Since 2013, there have been no fewer than 12 sexual assaults reported annually.

In the past 10 years at Iowa State, there have been 103 reported sexual assaults on campus, with 15 arrests made. According to the Iowa State Safety report, the firsts arrests in the past ten years didn’t occur until 2013, when two arrests were made.

Start By Believing” is an international campaign that aims to transform community response to sexual assault. In 2014, Iowa State Police officer and community outreach specialist Anthony Greiter brought “Start By Believing” to Iowa State.

“Start By Believing” refers to the first thing that bystanders should do when a victim reports their assault. Instead of doubting or blaming a victim, bystanders and those close to a victim should believe them; hence the name, “Start By Believing.”

“We need everyone to start by believing, so that victims of sexual assault get to the resources they need, and get the help they need,” Greiter said. 

What are the resources? Who can access them?

One resource for sexual assault on campus is Story County Sexual Assault Response Team (S.A.R.T.)

The team is made up of professionals specializing in sexual assault from multiple agencies: Iowa State University Police Department, Ames Police Department, Story County Sheriff’s Office, Nevada Police Department, Huxley Police Department, Story City Police Department, ACCESS (Assault Care Center Extending Shelter and Support), Mary Greeley Medical Center, Thielen Student Health Center, Story County Medical Center and Story County Attorney’s Office.

Other resources for victims and bystanders of sexual assault are the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Student Counseling Services, Dean of Students Office and Student Counseling Services.

The Iowa State Police Department began another campaign in the fall of 2017 that promotes crime reporting and community trust for the police. “We Care; Please Tell Us” was first released to the public with a video by the Iowa State Police Department that encouraged victims of sexual assault to reach out to authorities.


If you’ve been the victim of sexual assault, we want to help. We care. Please tell us.

A post shared by Iowa State University Police (@isupd) on Aug 18, 2017 at 9:13am PDT

 Greiter said that “We Care; Please Tell Us” was inspired by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s “Tell Us” campaign, which encourages students to report sexual assault cases to law enforcement.

Green Dot program aims to educate and reduce power-based violence on campus

In July 2017, the Green Dot program was introduced to Iowa State University as a defense against sexual assault and power-based violence on campus.

The purpose of Green Dot is to implement a bystander intervention strategy that prevents and reduces power-based personal violence. Though traditional violence prevention programs may only approach men as potential perpetrators and women as potential victims, their program approaches every student, administrator, and faculty as a potential ally, according to Green Dot’s parent company Alteristic.

The research-based program has been carried out within the Air Force, colleges and universities, elementary schools and high schools. Since being implemented within the Air Force, they have seen a 17 percent reduction in incidents. According to Jazzmine Brooks, Iowa State’s Green Dot coordinator, it may take a few years to see this kind of change on campus, but she is very hopeful that the change will eventually be made. 

“We are in its [Green Dot’s] first year, so I don’t see [sexual assault, dating violence, or stalking] changing tomorrow or even next year because the program evolves. It takes about 3 years just to become engrained in the system,” said Brooks. “My hope is that, if I do my job well, we all participate in [the program], learn a little bit more about [violence], and actually intervene and do proactive things, that we will see a lower rate of incidents.

I also hope to see a culture that doesn’t allow for victim-blaming, supports reporting incidents, supports intervening in situations before they become a crisis or just thinking about us being a community and that we all look out for each other.”

There are a few factors that play into the Green Dot program, the first one being bystander training. Iowa State’s Green Dot program hosts informational overviews about the program that last about an hour long, but a long-term bystander training program will be hopefully be introduced for students, faculty and staff in the near future. 

By attending the training, students will better understand the elements of cultural change, be able to recognize behaviors that constitute dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, learn to identify barriers that prevent active intervention and much more.

Participants receive a training certificate, credit for a student’s Iowa State Co-Curricular Transcript (CCT), free lunch or dinner and Green Dot apparel. Currently, the sessions are limited to only 40 people, so those who wish to partake in training must register as soon as possible. To register visit www.studentwellness.iastate.edu/greendot

Currently there are over 50 Iowa State staff members trained. The faculty and staff bystander training has a similar structure to the student training, but the main difference, Brooks explained, is how the trainees can apply the information to their own life. 

“For students, you’re thinking about more realistic situations for example whether you’re at a party or you’re in a subgroup or thinking about an organization or class, it’s giving realistic situations that you may approach,” Brooks said. “With faculty and staff, it’s also giving them realistic options, given their circumstances whether it be professionally on campus or in their personal life. However, it’s also giving them insight on how to support students through these things and how they can start to recognize some of these things and be able to check in on them.” 

The Green Dot program is not supposed to be a replacement for current programs on campus, but rather an “umbrella” to create a unified message. Like the bystander training continually emphasizes, the Green Dot program is focused on creating a cultural change. 

“The inner layer of the program is that we are engaging international student issues, graduate student issues, issues within our Greek life, issues within athletics, issues within any community that would be a little bit more high risk,” Brooks said. “We’re also looking at introducing some of these concepts with our faculty a little bit more, bringing it to the classroom. It’s supposed to be on our bloodstream and that takes time too.”

Green Dot has also helped host a few events at Iowa State including “Sex in the Dark,” which featured a panel that answered questions about safe, consensual sex. The room the event took place in was completely dark so that people would feel comfortable anonymously asking questions. In the future, Green Dot hopes to help host events like Sex in the Dark. They also have some events planned for April of 2018, which is sexual assault awareness month. 

Though Green Dot does not directly offer counseling for survivors of assault, they encourage people to visit Iowa State’s Sexual Misconduct website, which offers confidential counseling, gives directions for someone helping a friend and allows victims to file a report.