DU students desire more advocacy for sexual assault victims

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From just the start of the new year, DU’s campus has continued to increase in gender-based discrimination, including sexual violence. With two incidents since the start of March, students are becoming more and more concerned with the schools ability to keep them safe.

Female students specifically are looking at the effects that sexual assault, recovery, and advocacy have on victims. As they advocate for better options in resources and support, the women of DU are frightened this increase of incidents could turn towards an epidemic.

As a female DU student, Mary Cole (sophomore) says that, “I don’t feel safe walking home alone at night, especially when the regular route I take has been overcome with the possibility of being attacked. I know many people who have been affected by these incidents and are scarred for the rest of their lives.”

While three forcible fondlings may not seem like a lot, this problem has been intrusion on DU’s campus for so many years that the perpetrators have been given inappropriate names including: The Forcible Fondler, and The Pioneer Pincher. “This degradation of a serious offense is just the start of why many DU students are advocating for more support from the school” explains Mary Cole.

An anonymous source spoke out about her incident with one of the perpetrators, “I was completely caught off guard, he came up behind me outside my friend’s fraternity house and tried to grab at me. Campus safety was no help either as they mis-directed the importance of where the incident took place over the urgency of the event. The school made it harder to start the recovery process too, with just a few short emails they really didn’t seem that concerned about my well being.”

But not many students know what type of support they are offered.

“I just want to see DU’s campus take charge correctly, making sure that our students feel safe, and to make sure everyone knows what their options are concerning support,” continued the anonymous female student.

CAPE and the Health and Counseling Center recently put on their annual “Fresh Check Day and Mental Health Festival”, a suicide prevention and mental health awareness festival that included advocacy for gender-based violence. Groups from around DU’s campus, including the FSL Sexual Assault Liaisons and DUMind, made an appearance to advocate for survivors through crisis management therapy sessions, fun games to support the LGBTQ and survivor community, and sign-up sheets for CAPE and the HCC’s email list and activities.

“It was nice to see the support that the school can provide, I didn’t know about more than half of the programs that were offered,” explained Mary Cole, “I’m glad to see how the school is finally offering substantial support for students but I’ll always be weary of the higher administrations impact.”

However, The University of Denver had recently gone through major renovations to their Title IX and counseling sectors. Kayla Ham, Coordinator of Advocacy Services, Center for Advocacy, Prevention, and Empowerment (C.A.P.E.) works daily to provide positive and sufficient advocacy for gender-based discrimination and sexual assault victims.

As of January 2016, the most recent changes to DU’s Title IX include “hiring a full-time designated Title IX Coordinator to administer and coordinate University efforts and two civil rights investigators to investigate Title IX concerns and Equal Opportunity concerns,” along with “implementing primary prevention strategies and education including Haven training for incoming undergraduates; a Peer Education program and the B.O.S.S. bystander training,” which are only two of the ways that Title IX has been reconstructed.

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While DU’s Health and Counseling Center and the CAPE initiative are making strides in awareness and advocacy, many students still feel as if there is a social stigma around reporting sexual assaults or harassments.

“When I talked to Campus Safety, the police, and Title IX they all messed up the urgency of the situation and actually ended up getting my friend’s fraternity in trouble with the media; where they made it out to seem that one of the fraternity members was the perpetrator. I’m definitely a lot more cautious about talking to Campus Security and the police now, if I ever do it again.”

Kayla Ham, explained how important it is to provide a safe environment where students can voice their problems and concerns, without which can lead to unhealthy mental attitudes. She urges students to use all the DU provides, including Campus Safety’s walk home program, B.O.S.S. trainings, and even the good samaritan/medical amnesty program which provides help without punishment for those who intentionally called help.

“I’m finally feeling a little safer on campus after the incident,” said the anonymous victim, “but I still feel the looming presence of the man who came after me, they didn’t catch him which means he can still attack again.”

2 Responses to DU students desire more advocacy for sexual assault victims

  • Kat Weaver says:

    I really like the structure and flow of this story. You provide detailed background information, specific examples of sexual assault at DU then move to the more broad social/legal perspective of the ongoing issue. You frame the story nicely with C.A.P.E and the outreach services available for sexual assault survivors because it feels urgent, informational, and a service that could be more useful it more students knew about it. It’s important that you added the social perspective and the stigma around calling Campus Safety, but you ended with another strong quote that ties the piece together. Your quotes are very interesting and informational overall and your level of detail in providing background information is also important.

  • Jane Zunamon
    Jane Zunamon says:

    This is a really important topic and issue on DU’s campus. Your quotes from interviews provide a more in-depth example from current students fears about this issue. It’s great that you talked about the programs that are currently in place for students. I liked that you addressed the problems with some of the current programs. Overall a good article and something that I find very important, especially being a female on this campus.

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