Confronting sexual assault: more than just no means no

Confronting+sexual+assault%3A+more+than+just+no+means+no

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New legislature hopes to bring justice, aid to victims of rape and sexual assault 

Sexual assault has long been a problem on college campuses across America, and recent events have pushed the issue into national spotlight.
There was the case of Emma Sulkowicz, a student at Columbia University, dubbed the “mattress girl” for her pledge to carry a mattress around campus until her rapist was expelled.  This March, ESPN published an article drawing attention to the 2011 suicide of Sansha Menu Corey, a University of Missouri swimmer, after her rape by a, or possibly more than one, MU football player was not prosecuted.
Countless cases like this have given credence to The Bipartisan Campus Accountability and Safety Act introduced to congress by Senator Claire McCaskill.
According to Senator McCaskill’s campus sexual assault report, over 40 percent of colleges in America have not conducted a sexual assault investigation in five years. This, along with with other survey and investigations from the report, found that many colleges and universities are not fully complying with the law or using proper methods to handle the occurrence of sexual violence.
The  bipartisan act will have stricter measures to protect against sexual violence and ensure compliance with the law as well as implementation of procedures taken to protect victims of sexual violence. Despite not yet being passed, said ninth grade civics teacher Chris Fischer, the bill has put a lot of pressure on colleges nationwide.
“Colleges were forced to scramble around and meet the requirements or risk losing major funding and face severe repercussions,” said Fischer. “ In a way, they were pulled up by their teeth, and rightly so.”
Sometimes, people do not see sexual assault as a major problem on campus. However, sexual assault is a big problem, though people may not always realize it, said Barbara Hodges of True North Women’s shelter. Often, there are more victims of rape than are officially recorded, because not all crimes are reported.
“We respond to the University Hospital about 120 [times] each year to assist victims of sexual assault,” said Hodges. “Often times, the individual does not want to report the assault and we respect her or his wishes.  Some victims of sexual assault blame themselves, feel guilty and embarrassed.”
Realizing the personal and emotional distress caused by crimes of sexual violence, the bill aims to do more than just crackdown on universities’ policies of sexual violence. According to the act, the legislation will provide new campus services, support and resources for student victims. In addition, it will require training of specific campus personnel to teach them to interact and treat victims with empathy and understanding.
Many times, because of the lack of knowledge and information provided, students feel discouraged, or simply do not know the correct avenues to report sexual assault crimes to police. However, Hodges says, working with law enforcement is an important part of getting convictions for rapists.
“Sexual Assault is a very personal and emotionally devastating experience,” Hodges said. “True North works closely with the Columbia Police Department, Sheriff Department, and the Prosecuting Attorney office. [They] each have a specific role in assisting victims of sexual assault.”
The act aims to address this problem. Legislation in the Campus Accountability Act will require greater coordination with law enforcement by campus. Campus will be required to keep a database of students convicted of sexual crimes. In addition, violation of Title IX-a federal law prohibiting discrimination based on sex-will receive more severe penalties. These stipulations will increase cooperation with law enforcement as well as require campuses to follow the law and the policies, or suffer legal ramifications.
Another problem reported in Senator Claire McCaskill’s report, is many cases of sexual assault are brushed under the rug or pushed aside. There are times, Fischer said, when sexual assault cases are not properly handled or ignored.
“It [the Campus Accountability and Safety act] put a lot of needed stress on colleges, including Mizzou,” Fischer said. “It’s completely unacceptable for students to feel unsafe on campus or to feel their school is dangerous.”
This legislation aims to create stricter policies against crimes of sexual violence and more stringent consequences for colleges and universities not enforcing or implementing the measures set forth by the legislation.
Currently, MU freshman Manal Salim said, policies against sexual violence are not being enforced and many perpetrators of these sexual crimes are present on campus.  Salim feels unsafe walking home at night after an evening class and has taken precautions to protect her self.
“After just a few weeks into the school year, several Clery releases were emailed to students, notifying them of the sexual assaults that had occurred on campus,” Salim said. “As a more informed student, I’ve taken steps to promote my safety and encourage the same safety precautions to my friends, including purchasing pepper spray for my keychain and making sure not to walk alone on campus after dark.”
The act aims to make campuses less dangerous and make students like Salim feel safer at school. Though it has not yet been enacted, Fischer said it has already had a powerful influence on several colleges, including MU. Many campuses have changed their procedures to  create and enforce more severe punishments for sexual harassment and abuse.
“This summer was very stressful for Mizzou. They had to implement all these new policies,” said Fischer. “My wife, who is on the general counsel at MU, is meeting with faculty as we speak. I know one of the new policies is the faculty and staff risk losing tenure if they do not abide by Title IX.”
While universities and colleges begin making changes within their school , Senator Claire McCaskill has been visiting campuses, garnering support for her bill and applying pressure to colleges with looser sexual assault policies. Many students, like Salim, believe the act is necessary for the protection of students. As of now, Salim said, sexual assault is an eminent danger to students on campus.
“Reports of physical sexual assault on campus have encouraged me to become more aware and cognizant of my surrounding,” Salim said. “Sexual harassment is a looming danger that students should be fully aware and cautious of on campus.”
By Humera Lodhi
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., left, and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., participate in a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 6, 2014, following a Senate vote on military sexual assaults . The Senate blocked a bill that would have stripped senior military commanders of their authority to prosecute rapes and other serious offenses, capping an emotional, nearly yearlong fight over how best to curb sexual assault in the ranks. Photo purchased from AP Photos, photo by Charles Dharapak.

Organizations provide aid for victims

In a rare instance of gender segregation, male students were sent to the main gym while female students were to report to the Performing Arts Center during their Bruin Blocks on Thursday, Oct. 23. Awaiting them at their respective locations, was a presentation that took bullying awareness one step further.
Moving past grade-school bullying and cyber-bullying, representatives from True North, a shelter for victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse, taught students about abusive, intimate relationships. In the presentation, Carol Montie, True North’s Youth Outreach Coordinator, provided students with some examples of red-flag behaviors along with ways to get help — either for their friends or for themselves.
“Pay attention to what’s going on around you,” Montie said. “Don’t make the mistake of not noticing if a friend is drinking maybe when that friend never really drinks or if that friend is no longer coming to school every day. It’s absolutely okay to walk up to friend and say, ‘Hey, is everything OK?’ It’s OK to step in.”
True North is reaching out to the community in hopes of providing students and community members with the tools to combat sexual assault and harassment.
“True North has three Outreach staff [workers] that provide education and prevention programing in the public schools and community,” True North Director Barbara Hodges said. “This has increased awareness of the issues.”
True North is a branch of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), the largest anti-sexual assault organization in the United States, established in 1994.
Realizing the lack of immediate services and assistance for victims of harassment and rape, Scott Berkowitz, founder of RAINN, set the goal of creating a 24-hour national hotline for victims and survivors, Berkowitz said in a public interview with the Village Voice. Berkowitz saw how limited the reach of community organizations was and sought to combine the efforts to bring forth a national hotline.

“Pay attention to what’s going on around you,” Montie said. “Don’t make the mistake of not noticing if a friend is drinking maybe when that friend never really drinks or if that friend is no longer coming to school every day. It’s absolutely okay to walk up to friend and say, ‘Hey, is everything OK?’ It’s OK to step in.”

Now, RAINN not only has a 24-hour national hotline, (800-656-HOPE), it also houses a National Sexual Assault Online Hotline. For local help, True North also has a 24-hour crisis line (573-875-1370).
Focused on three main facets of helping victims and bringing awareness to sexual assault, True North provides shelter, counseling, and outreach. In order to promote a safe environment, the shelter at True North only accepts women, but men who come seeking shelter are given hotel vouchers for alternative living arrangements.
“Our role at True North is focused on the victim,” Hodges said. “And on a weekly basis we provide assistance to domestic and sexual violence victims.”
For students at RBHS, help is closer to home. With four counselors, one outreach counselor and one student support counselor, the guidance office can aid victims in the process of reporting and recovering from sexual assault or harassment.
“Usually what I would do, is if the student came and reported it to me, they usually tell me what has happened,” outreach counselor Kelly Anderson said. “I would go with the student to the assistant principal’s office and assist them in telling the story because a lot of times they don’t want to tell the story.”
The harassment or assault would then be reported to the resource officer, Officer Keisha Edwards, who would be involved in the disciplinary process along with the student’s assistant principal. If the student wants to pursue legal action and press charges, Officer Edwards would assist them with the procedures.

infographic by Alice Yu. Inforgraphic infromation from truenorthofcolumbia.org, rainn.org, kitestring.io, circleof6app.com
infographic by Alice Yu. Infographic infromation from truenorthofcolumbia.org, rainn.org, kitestring.io, circleof6app.com
Along with directing students towards legal assistance, the guidance office can also contact the Missouri Psychological Services through the University of Missouri-Columbia or Burrell Mental Health Services, located in Springfield, Missouri.
Although the guidance office doesn’t provide financial aid for Burrell’s mental and emotional therapy, the resources offered are usually covered by insurance. In the case that the services are not covered by insurance, Burrell can slide scale fees, adjusting the price to fit the financial situation of the student.
“I’ve done this 13 years in the school district, 20 some years, and I’ve had, unfortunately, many, many cases of [sexual harassment],” Anderson said. “It’s too much in our society.”
By ensuring students have an adequate support system and ongoing help, school administrators, including the guidance office, will periodically check-up with the student to see that their needs are being met.
“It’s heartbreaking and that damage can last forever,” Anderson said. “So I try to provide ongoing support to kids while they’re here at school. My job is to set them up with outside help for their long-term health.”
But unfortunately, many victims are boxed in by their fear, preventing them from speaking out.This silence shatters the opportunity for victims to receive assistance and begin their road to recovery.
“Only 67 percent of people share their story,” Montie said. “It is a privilege to hear somebody’s story. It is scary to tell your story and if somebody does share their story, you can just support them and believe their story and listen and then at that time, if they choose to go further and need help going further, contact our hotline, a teacher, a counselor [or] somebody that they trust, because that would be the hardest part for them.”
By Alice Yu

Life after sexual assault

One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, according to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network. Out of those women, 44 percent of the victims are under age.
For senior Haylie Taylor, she became a part of the statistic at age 15. On a Saturday night, Taylor ended up in a place unknown to her. The events that took place that night, even though she was heavily intoxicated with alcohol, are forever etched into Taylor’s memory.
“They kept giving me drinks, kept giving me drinks, and they thought it was funny,” Taylor said, “[but] I remember everything, [even though] it was kind of blurry.”
Taylor had been accompanied by her friend and two others and, as she began to become too intoxicated, she asked her friend to take her to a room to sleep off the alcohol. To Taylor’s surprise, her friend insisted that she didn’t need to take her, but that a complete stranger would show her to the room.
“Instead of her taking me in the room she had her friend do it,” Taylor said. “But her friend never came back out. [He even] said he was going to take advantage of me because I was drunk.”

“They tried to get the guy that did it to come in, and he said he had nothing to say.” Taylor said. “[They] had a warrant out for his arrest and he finally came in and denied the whole thing, and then they ended up dropping my case.”

Later that night – early Sunday morning – Taylor awoke in the backseat of her own car, in a McDonald’s parking lot, with her friend and her friend’s boyfriend. With tears welling in her eyes, she told her friend everything that had happened, in hopes that she’d have support.
“At first she believed me,” Taylor said. “But then after that Monday, when I came back to school after I told somebody and the cops got involved, she changed her story and was like, ‘None of that happened, we weren’t even drinking.’”
Taylor’s case is among the just 40 percent of rape cases that get reported, according to  RAINN.
“They tried to get the guy that did it to come in, and he said he had nothing to say.” Taylor said. “[They] had a warrant out for his arrest and he finally came in and denied the whole thing, and then they ended up dropping my case.”
RAINN reports that out of every 100 rapes, 10 rapes lead to arrest and only three rapists will spend a single day in prison.
“I’m a person who hides my feelings and so I don’t show emotions, but when it sets in, it [hits] me hard,” Taylor said. “It hit me hard for a few days.”
Without the relief of her case going to trial, Taylor knew she needed to focus on her own mental health. A study of 4008 women by the Psychiatric Times found that the lifetime prevalence of rape-related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is 32 percent.

Rape-Infographic-2
infographic by Renata Williams
“It helped me,” Taylor said. “It helped me [get over] some of the things: the nightmares and flashbacks. I had flashbacks of the whole entire night, everything that he did to me and it would just be … every night so I got to the point to where I just wouldn’t go to sleep.”
At the time of the incident, Taylor’s counselor was Mrs. Amelia Fagiolo, who now works at BHS. Taylor said Mrs. Fagiolo was someone she could confide in, which is why she trusted her enough to bare her story.
“A lot of the time, students do come here,” RBHS guidance counselor Leslie Kersha said. “If they’ve gone through an experience that was traumatizing, or they’re experiencing a lot of emotion, a lot of pain, and if it happens during the day, a lot of the times they come and they self disclose and they tell us.”
Kersha, said as school counselors, though, the main role is connecting students with professional help, such as therapy.
“While we don’t do the therapy here, we try to connect them to outside resources,” Kersha said. “If they have experienced a traumatizing event, generally speaking, they need, or could benefit from, therapy,” Kersha said.Although students who are experiencing such events seek outside counseling, Kersha said RBHS counselor’s are still there any time a student needs a backbone.
“When we’re working with them during that time, it’s really just to support them in the moment and try to get them to a place where they can get back to class and go on with their day,” Kersha said. “So we definitely are a safe place for those students if they’re having crisis moments during the school day, too.”
Taylor spent her sophomore and junior year going to counseling to overcome the obstacles that lingered. Much of Taylor’s counseling was getting her through the integration phase of recovery. According to rapecrisis.org, this phase consists of a victim’s emotions becoming much more evident, which causes them to not be able to function the way they used to.
“I felt like I put myself in that situation because I decided to drink…,” Taylor said. “But then people and my counselor outside of school convinced me and [were] like ‘Well if you weren’t drinking, it still could have happened.’”
Taylor benefited from counseling, both in and out of school, but said her issues regarding relationships still continue, especially with men.
“My trust is very small and very short with people. It’s hard to trust people … because I don’t know their intentions,” Taylor said. “I know not all guys are like that, but when something [happens] like that, you just don’t know what their intentions.”
By Renata Williams

Rape kits provide evidence, cause discomfort

After the assault and before the trial, there is one step that is often overlooked and forgotten. Many people are simply unaware of a crucial process that often contains the truth needed for justice: rape kits.
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), a rape kit is administered by a medical professional if a rape victim elects to seek a forensic examination at a hospital. During the process, which can take several hours, the victim’s clothing is collected to test for DNA evidence, as well as blood, hair and anything else that may have physical residues from the attack.
The University of Missouri Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention center (RSVP) has provided advocacy and emotional support for rape victims for many years. According to Danica Wolf, the coordinator of RSVP, the forensic exam is conducted by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) and normally takes a couple of hours.
“[It] generally takes between 1-2 hours,” Wolf said. “But can take longer, depending on the circumstances of the situation.”
When a rape victim reports an assault to the Columbia Police Department, the responding officer will gather information about the crime before requesting that the victim go to the University Hospital for a physical examination and rape kit, according to Columbia Police Department Public Information Officer Latisha Stroer.
“The University Police Department has a special room for sexual assault victims so she doesn’t have to wait in the emergency room with other medical emergencies,” Stroer said.  “A sexual assault examination nurse is then paged unless the nurse is already at the emergency room.”
These examination are conducted at the hospital’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) clinic. According to the RSVP website, services at the SANE clinic are free of charge and representatives from True North, an agency that provides aid to victims of domestic and sexual abuse, are also on hand for support.
If the victim agrees to a physical examination, the contents of the rape kit are given to the responding officer to be catalogued as evidence. In the cases that prosecutorial efforts occur, the kits are sent to the Missouri Highway Patrol Lab for testing. Stroer said that the process of getting the rape kits tested and sent back can be extensive.
“It takes anywhere between six months to a year to get a sexual assault examination kit back from the Missouri Highway Patrol Crime Lab,” Stroer said. “ The crime lab has to prioritize DNA examinations and murder investigations take precedent over all other crimes and they test all police departments in Missouri except for Kansas City and St. Louis, who have their own crime lab.”
Stroer further said that in instances where the rape victim seeks aid from a hospital prior to contacting the police or conveys to medical professionals that he or she does not wish to involve the authorities, law enforcement will still pick up the rape kit and keep it as evidence for 30 days in case the victim has second thoughts. After this 30 day period, however, the police cannot continue to store the kit.
“If the victim does not want to go forward with the investigation and has signed a decline prosecution form, the sexual assault kit is destroyed,” Stroer said.
According to Danica Wolf, the coordinator of RSVP, there can also be serious medical repercussions for rape victims if a rape kit or physical exam is not conducted.
“Many health-related issues could arise if someone who was raped does not get medical attention at some point afterward,” Wolf said in an email interview, “including (but not limited to) sexually-transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies, pelvic floor issues, untreated bone breaks/bruises and other potential infections if a person was exposed.”
While rape kits may seem to be necessary and beneficial, there are some rape victims who choose to not have one done, which may be due to the nature of the kits, which some have called invasive. Julie, a 25 year old woman from Illinois, was raped in 2007 and told the New York Times about the ordeal of her rape kit.
“I felt invaded, terrified and exposed during the rape kit,” she said. “After undressing in front of strangers, I was poked, prodded, scraped, swabbed, combed and photographed. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”
Even after going through this process, many rape victims may have to wait a while for justice. According to thedailybeast.com, an estimated 400,000 rape kits remain untested in the United States.
Julie’s kit fell into this category. According to The New York Times, police told her that her rape kit would not be tested unless  she paid for it herself; the man accused of raping her would not be prosecuted.
“They said it came down to he said-she said, but what’s in that box could have told a different story,” Julie said. “This was evidence in a major crime. To just drop a case without looking at the evidence doesn’t make any sense.”
By Jenna Liu
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Infographic by Renata Williams / captions by Abdul-Rahman Abdul-Kafi NOTE: Animated image. Best experienced on a computer. Hover mouse over states for information.

New platform for sexual harassment

It started last year. It began with one list, and then another. And another, and another. They were published frequently; culminating with two widely spread and circulated “thot” lists.”Thot”, by the way, being a derogatory word for females implying sexual misconduct and promiscuity. Sexual harassment had found it’s way into RBHS social media.
Senior Ron’Zena Hill was a victim of this harassment; at the beginning of the school year, her name was put on one of these infamous “thot” lists .
“I respect myself as a woman so I don’t understand why I was put on that list,” Hill said. “A lot of girls on the list cried about it, and felt bad about being put on the lists.”
Hill is one of many girls targeted by the publisher-also a RBHS student-of these lists and while Hill brushed it off as a juvenile prank, other girls took the incident to heart.  After seeing their name on the list, Hill says, many girls were embarrassed and ashamed. But the publisher was not the only one behind the lists: many other boys in school not only encouraged, but participated in the creation of these lists.
“The guy population as a whole encourages him [the publisher of the lists]. Guys will send names of girls they don’t like, or have had a bad past with to him [the publisher] and it’s not fair,” Hill said. “It could be considered a form of sexual harassment. Once your name is on the list and you’re falsely accused, guys will come up to you and say things that they typically wouldn’t or will hint at things they typically wouldn’t. It hasn’t happened to me, but I could easily see it happening to other girls.”
Unfortunately, this is not a problem unique to RBHS. Sexual harassment, already present in society, has found a new platform: the internet. A recent survey by Pew Research found that 73 percent of adults have faced harassment  of some sort on social media sites.
Harassment is often hard to report because it’s hard to define; it covers a wide variety of behavior. It can range from name calling to threats of physical and sexual violence. The Pew Research survey found  young woman (those between the ages of 18-24) tend to face the most severe forms of online harassment when compared to other demographics.
This research not only indicates that online harassment is a problem, but rather a much bigger one than experts initially thought. The percentage of incidents of extreme harassment online roughly correlate to the percentage of extreme harassment in person: 26 percent of young women reported being stalked online which correlates to the 25 percent of women who reported being physically stalked at sometime point during their life-as reported by the National Center for Victims of Crime.
Despite these statistics, online harassment is not always seen in the same light as other types of harassment. University of Missouri senior Farah El-Jayyousi is the founder and president of the Chronically Awesome Association and is majoring in Women’s and Gender studies at MU. Having volunteered at organizations such as the Women’s Center at MU and the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center, El-Jayyousi has worked with many victims of sexual harassment and abuse. Online harassment, El-Jayyousi says, is not always treated with the same amount of seriousness or attention as other forms of sexual harassment..
“Online, the harasser has more anonymity and thus less risk of repercussions whether social, personal, institutional, or legal. As a result, they often feel less inhibited in their threats and language,” El-Jayyousi said. “Where on the street they

infographic by Renata Williams
infographic by Renata Williams
might say something to the effect of ‘Hey baby,’ online sexual harassment is often much more vulgar, explicit, graphic and threatening, often consisting of threats of extreme violence and various slurs.”
Some types of sexual harassment have become more common than others on the internet. Recently, 4chan, an imageboard website, received media attention for their repeated leaking and posting of celebrity nudes on their website. These photos were not used with permission, but rather, were stolen from hacked devices and accounts.
“It [hacking the celebrities’ account and posting their photos] is definitely a form of sexual harassment and abuse. It is also an abuse of these people’s trust and right to privacy,” El-Jayyousi said. “They should be free to take whatever pictures they please of themselves, and it is no one’s business to access them and distribute them without their explicit consent.”
However, when these celebrity nudes were leaked, many criticized the celebrities for their actions. Many people believed the celebrities should not have taken the pictures in the first place, since they are in a spotlight and a breach was bound to happen. This, El-Jayyousi says, is the wrong attitude to have and instead, places the blame on the victim and not the perpetrator.
To combat these breaches of privacy, El-Jayyousi believes there are ways to fight this prevalence of online sexual harassment. The first step, she says, is defining the problem and raising awareness of the issues. Along with this, El-Jayyousi says, there should be more implementation of anti-harassment procedures.
“Social media companies can institute harsher policies for dealing with harassers. Legislation is also important, because online harassment cannot necessarily be prosecuted everywhere,” El-Jayyousi said. “At the same time, law enforcement officials need to be better trained to deal with these cases with empathy and without victim-blaming which they would not do in an instance of theft, for example.”
However, one of the biggest problems society faces in fighting online harassment, both El-Jayyousi and Hill believe, is pretending it doesn’t exist. High Schoolers especially are slow to label harassment as such. It’s important, El-Jayyousi says, to remember that anything that makes another person feel uncomfortable or violated can be a form of harassment.
“People have the right to consent to what of their bodies is viewed and where and when,” El-Jayyousi said. “Consent to one thing does not consent to all things.”
By Humera Lodhi[TS_VCSC_Image_Hotspot_Container seperator_1=”” hotspot_image=”” hotspot_break=”false” hotspot_break_parents=”5″ seperator_2=”” hotspot_large=”900″ hotspot_medium=”600″ messenger=”” seperator_3=”” margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”0″ el_id=”” el_class=”” el_file1=””][/TS_VCSC_Image_Hotspot_Container][vc_video link=”https://vimeo.com/111158822″]