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"Educating our communities and elected officials about the needs of survivors in our local cities and towns requires year round focus. JDI is our pathway to informing and influencing the state and national agenda to end sexual and domestic violence." ~ Karen Cavanaugh, JDI board member and Executive Director of Womanshelter/Companeras, pictured here with a JDI delegation meeting with Congressman Niki Tsongas

Universities across nation discuss plans against sexual assault

This is the third part of a series examining how Boston University handles cases of sexual assault, in response to the two separate arrests of men’s hockey players for sexual assault in the last two months.

The spotlight following the arrests of two Boston University hockey players has revealed that some universities have more resources and codes for sexual assault reaction than BU.

While some private universities have similar policies to BU for rape and other types of sexual assault, other schools offer different resources to address these incidents.

BU spokesman Colin Riley said the university holds students accountable for their violations in the code of responsibilities, whether it is on or off campus.

“For every case we hear for an alleged violation of the code of student responsibilities, the sanction can run from no action up to suspension or even expulsion,” Riley said. “Each case is treated individually, on the facts of that particular case.”

After an allegation of sexual misconduct is brought against a student, the university uses a “preponderance of the evidence” to determine if sexual misconduct occurred, according to BU’s Lifebook.

Syracuse University’s non-consensual sex policy stated that after a student sends a complaint to the Office of Judicial Affairs and the University Judicial System finds students in violation of the policy, they could face suspension or expulsion.

Syracuse offers a Silent Witness Program to report crimes anonymously, similar to BU’s anonymous tip submission online or via text, and has an Advocacy Center with programs that address sexual or relationship violence.

“Our crime-prevention and investigation departments both do proactive presentations where they talk about avoiding sexual activity under the influence of alcohol, because issues of consent become very clouded when one or both persons are drunk,” said Jennifer Horvath, the public information officer at Syracuse’s Department of Public Safety, in an email.

Horvath said the Advocacy Center is the best on-campus resource for these issues.

The center offers peer programs such as Sex Esteem, a group that discusses healthy relationships, sex and sexuality, as well as A Men’s Issue, which argues that sexual violence should also be a men’s issue, according to the its website.

Like BU, Syracuse also offers the Rape Aggression Defense program, which teaches women self-defense techniques.

As a religious school, Brigham Young University has an honor code that prohibits consumption of alcohol, tea and coffee and focuses on dressing and residential standards, according to the BYU Honor Code website.

The code also requires students to “manifest a strict commitment to the law of chastity,” and students who violate the Honor Code may be separated from the university, according to the website.

Although LaNae Valentine, the director of Women’s Services & Resources at BYU, said not everyone might be following the religious faith or the honor code, she said it is a factor that prevents some of these incidents from happening.

“The positive side of our BYU culture is it is a religious university and we have a pretty strict honor code so we don’t have drinking on our campus,” Valentine said. “At least, they’re not supposed to. We know it happens.”

The BYU Women’s Services & Resources works closely with BYU’s counseling center, student health, university police and other student life entities, Valentine said.

The Princeton Review has rated BYU as the most stone-cold sober university, she said.

But Valentine said the downside is that if students do not adhere to the honor code, there is a sense of shame and unwillingness to come forward and report things.

“I think that probably things go on that don’t get reported and things go on that [students] don’t come to us [about],” Valentine said. “I think that we could do better about talking about especially the sexual assault issue more openly than we do.”

Out of forcible and non-forcible sex offenses occurring either on campus, in residence halls or in a non-campus building, BYU’s Provo, Utah, campus had 11 reported incidents in 2009, while BU had two on and off campus combined.

Linda Blum, the interim director of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Northeastern University, said in an email that unfortunately, the rape culture pervades many realms of society.

“Sports, as a site which celebrates a particularly aggressive masculinity, is a very visible site,” Blum said, “but consider the pervasiveness in our military as well.”

As a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, Blum said her early activism centered on the issue of sexual harassment on college campuses.

Blum fought with other graduate students to have the university name and address the issue as discrimination, she said.

Debra Robbin, the deputy director of Jane Doe Inc., a statewide coalition against sexual assault and domestic violence, said every college needs to have a comprehensive program that ranges from intervention to prevention.

“What’s really important on a campus, in a community,” Robbin said, “is that people that hold power in that institution . . . also need to send a very strong message that sexual violence is unacceptable on this campus and it’s not a value that we will tolerate.”


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