Temple’s safety report arrives in time for the October Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Gabrielle Wetzel smiled in embarrassment when she remembered what happened during her first few weeks at college last year.
“I chose to go to a shady party,” the sophomore advertising major said. Wetzel said she was slightly intoxicated when she headed to the restroom at a party and almost tripped over a guy’s shoes.
“I don’t remember everything. It was really quick. He just grabbed me, grabbed me by my shoulders, he put me up against the wall. My girlfriends saw what happened and came over. They told him to go [leave],” she said.
Wetzel said she doesn’t consider being sexually violated, but said the event could have escalated.
For one in five young women in college, it has. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that one in five women will be sexually assaulted during their college years.
Young women ages 16-24 experience the highest rates of dating violence and sexual assault, according to the Center for Disease Control.
October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Vice President Joe Biden has acted as a key figure in leading the Violence Against Women Act, which is expected to be renewed this year. Lawmakers are hoping to extend protections to curb sexual violence. Biden has also launched a social media campaign, 1is2many, to increase student awareness.
Last month, Biden also released a video message, calling on college-age people nationwide to help bring an end to violence against women.
Temple’s 2011 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report was released last week, providing insight into sexual assault and crime statistics on the university’s campuses.
According to the report, Main Campus saw three forcible rapes “on campus” and four “off-campus” in 2010. In 2009, two “on campus” rapes were reported and no reports were made “off campus.”
But the report, produced in compliance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, does not necessarily include all crimes against Temple students.
The university includes information in the report to meet the standards of the U.S. Department of Education Handbook under the Clery Act. According to the handbook, Temple “must disclose statistics for reported Clery crimes that occur: (1) on campus, (2) on public property within or immediately adjacent to the campus, and (3) in or on non-campus buildings or property that your institution owns or controls.”
Because of the Clery Act, off-campus residences are not included.
Campus Safety Services’ daily crime log online provides a broader scope than the annual report because it is based on a geographic area not limited to Clery reportable crimes, but rather all criminal incidents reported to Campus Safety Services, Charlie Leone, deputy director of CSS said.
But Congress is taking measures to quell college sexual violence. It introduced the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act last spring in an effort to update the Clery Act. The revisions would allow colleges and universities to respond more effectively to campus sexual violence, but is still being tabled.
Still, Temple maintains a no-tolerance sexual assault policy.
“I think it’s disgusting and there shouldn’t be any act of sexual violence on campus,” said senior broadcast telecommunications and mass media major Kaitryn Wetzel. “If you’re put [in] the position where you think you need to be violent in order to make sexual advances toward them, you are a dirty, nasty pig.”
Students who are survivors of sexual assault can visit Health Education Awareness Resource Team, a department within the division of Student Affairs that addresses wellness and health education, to consult advisers for assistance.
“There’s a stigma attached to sexual violence, they may think it’s their fault,” said Kiara Washington, a senior public health major and peer educator at HEART. “Overall, I don’t think it’s a huge problem, but I do believe that these incidents do occur.”
Temple Police are attempting to combat the factors that lead to sexual assault, Leone said.
“A lot of our sexual assault stems from drugs and alcohol,” Leone said. “That is one of the elements in the crime of rape. If someone is totally intoxicated and you have sex with them, you’ll be charged with rape because they’re not able to make decisions.”
Washington suggested students should report sexual violence immediately, through campus safety or counseling services. Temple provides resources to support sexual assault survivors.
However, there is a difference between formal and informal procedures.
Informal complaints to a university administrator or faculty member are directed to the Sexual Assault Counseling and Education coordinator, who can provide counseling and other services.
If a survivor chooses to file charges, he or she must submit a formal complaint with Campus Safety Services or the Philadelphia Police Department.
“Imagine if it were a stranger who forced sex upon you and you had to talk to five or six other strangers about what happened,” Leone said. “It’s very difficult so we try to use a lot of sensitivity.”
Rape and sexual assault are notorious for going underreported, however, most instances of sexual assault on campus stem from an acquaintance of the victim. That makes it easier to catch the attacker, but not easier for victims to report the incident.
“Regardless of scenario, we treat it all the same,” Leone said. “If someone forces sex on someone, whether it’s an acquaintance or a stranger, we still do the same process. We really want to bring this person to justice as quickly as possible.”
For Temple student Tatianna Gratten, violence ensued when, after a day of drinking, her 27-year-old ex-boyfriend, Jeremy Allen Batten, forced her down and repeatedly punched her in the throat and head, according to the Daily Local News in West Chester, Pa.
While Gratten survived the attack, her psychological and physical injuries led her to miss some of her Fall 2010 coursework. She failed two classes and eventually lost her financial aid, reports state.
Gratten sued her boyfriend for the financial losses, and won. A judge ordered Batten to reimburse her for her lost money. In total, a judge ordered Batten to pay $4,733 to Grattan for two of her courses and for financial aid lost, and $2,905 to the Pennsylvania Crime Victim’s fund for her medical expenses.
Sexual abuse doesn’t just affect survivors, but also drains the economy. Intimate partner violence cost more than $8 billion in 2003, according to the CDC.
About 75 percent of domestic violence shelters around the country have seen an increase in the number of women seeking assistance since the recession began in September 2008, according to the nonprofit Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation.
Abusers act out on victims for a slew of reasons, but “economic hardship does not cause domestic violence,” said Peg Dierkers, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “It is a pattern of coercive power and control.”
She said other conditions going along with the economic recession like job loss, being at home more and an increased loss of control cause abusers to beat more frequently and often more severely.
“It’s one of the most complicated crimes that we investigate,” said Philadelphia Deputy Police Commissioner Patricia Giorgio-Fox. She said homicides due to sexual violence are rare to college-aged students, but do happen.
This time last year, the city had a total of 22 domestic homicides. For the first eight months of 2011, that number stands at 18. Giorgio-Fox attributes the decrease to a new initiative that started last January.
Philadelphia Police teamed with Women Against Abuse, the Women’s Law Project, the District Attorney’s office and a University of Pennsylvania psychologist to tackle the trend, Giorgio-Fox said.
Giorgio-Fox said the new program is working, but to ultimately decrease numbers, victims of sexual assault need to report any abuse.
“We can offer as much advice and counseling and help and alternatives as possible. But until the victim decides it’s time, it’s very difficult to correct that kind of behavior,” she said.
Although men also fall victim to sexual crimes, women makeup the majority of statistics. According to the 2010 National Crime Victimization Survey, 15,020 men were victims of rape compared to 169,370 women.
“There is no such thing as an innocent bystander when it comes to the abuse of a woman,” Biden said in his recent video message. “Assault is assault. Rape is rape. And it’s a crime.”
Becky Kerner and Matt Petrillo can be reached at email@example.com.