April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
On April 14, Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) introduced the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, or SaVE, in an effort to make colleges and universities clarify their policies regarding sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. Administrators said Temple is already prepared for the increased accountability.
The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), would go into effect in 2012 and would amend previous legislation, including the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, which requires institutions to disclose information about crime on and around their campuses.
According to the United States Department of Justice, approximately 20-25 percent of college women will be victims of an attempted or completed rape during their college careers. Since 2001, April has been nationally observed as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
“Since I first introduced this bill in the 111th Congress, there have been numerous new reports of incidents of rape and sexual assault at colleges and universities across Pennsylvania,” Casey said. “These incidents underscore the need for congress to ensure our colleges and universities offer students a safe environment to learn.”
Associate University Counsel Valerie Harrison said the university’s sexual assault policy complies with the Campus SaVE Act, which calls on administrators to provide open communication for student victims of sexual violence, along with other awareness and prevention education.
The university’s sexual assault policy was updated March 1 and includes proposed initiatives. The policy was revised to reflect technological advances and the way sexual harassment has changed.
“Years ago, the concept of stalking electronically was less found because we didn’t have texting and social media,” Harrison said. “Policies are updated to reflect those changes, however, the core part of the policy remains the same, and the university has always taken a position that it prohibits sexual harassment and other types of sexual violence.”
In 2009, Main Campus recorded a total of two forcible sex offenses, according to the latest Annual Security and Fire Safety report. Campus Safety Services Special Services Coordinator Donna Gray said there is a lack of reporting of sexual violence acts on Main Campus.
“We are always looking to improve campus safety,” Gray said. “Only formal complaints are filed in the Campus Safety Services annual report.”
On March 9, there was an attempted rape of a 20-year-old woman at the Wendy’s at 1708 N. Broad St. According to the Philadelphia Police Department, the woman was followed into a restroom by an unknown man who pulled her into a stall and removed his pants, exposing himself, and attempted to rape her.
The woman screamed, and a Wendy’s employee confronted the man, who fled the scene. The man, Steven Edwards, was identified and arrested on the 1700 block of North 10th Street.
Police are still investigating the report of an attempted rape of a female Temple student by an unknown male on April 13, which occurred on the 1500 block of West Oxford Street.
While the university issued a TU Advisory on April 14, there was no TU Alert or Advisory related to the March 9 case.
According to Philadelphia Police Crime Statistics, there was a 21 percent increase in reported cases of rape in the city from the period of Feb. 20 to March 20, to March 21 to April 17.
Gray said she understands why students would not want to report an act of sexual violence, referring to the trend that 90 percent of sexual assaults among college women are committed by non-strangers, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Sexual assault victims are not forced to immediately decide whether they will file an informal or formal complaint, said Stephanie Ives, the associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students.
“Priority No. 1 for me is re-empowering the victim and letting the victim know that they have choices,” Ives said.
“So really, very much, it’s in their hands. Would they like to have a confidential informal process? Would they like to engage in a formal process? Do they know about counseling? Do they know that there are criminal procedures that they can proceed through? Do they know that there are code of conduct procedures within Temple?” Ives added.
Tuttleman Counseling Services offers prevention and treatment support to sexual assault victims with its Sexual Assault Counseling and Education program. As outlined in the university’s sexual assault policy, the SACE coordinator is responsible for developing and providing various workshops and programs for the victims.
Alyssa Treff, a junior English major and the secretary of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, said administrators could do a better job informing the student body about sexual assault cases.
“I think, in some cases, they downplay a lot of things,” Treff said. “I’m not happy with what they’re doing. [Administrators] need to do more than just say ‘We’re the best-lit campus in North Philadelphia.’”
Treff added that she uses the campus shuttle service frequently at night.
“After about 10 p.m. or so, I start to be – especially off campus – somewhat paranoid,” Treff said.
The Campus SaVE Act requires institutions to start teaching bystander education and holds the school responsible for explaining its protective orders to students.
Ives said the “Say Something” program, offered by the Health Education and Awareness Resource Team, has met this initiative by instructing student leaders for the past two years to help others seek resources on campus.
Gray, who also instructs a section of Personal Defense for Women, a kinesiology course, said 90 percent of self-defense is awareness and 10 percent is physical.
“In addition, much of our push towards education is typically done at the beginning of a school year, so we are prepared for orientation again in August and September,” Ives said.
Amelia Brust and Connor Showalter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.