A sexual assault was reported on Jan. 28 to the University Police Department, making it the first on-campus sexual assault reported this semester.
UPD Lieutenant Jeremy Cook said the alleged assault happened in the Luckyday Residential College and that the two students involved knew each other.
“In this particular case, the student came to UPD,” Cook said. “The report wasn’t the same day that (the assault) happened, but it was days after it happened. She filed the report with UPD that she had possibly been sexually assaulted.”
Cook did not release the identities of the students involved or any details of how the investigation is being conducted, but he said, normally, an officer conducts an investigation by interviewing the people involved in the assault as well as any witnesses.
Cook said one of the main things UPD has done to help survivors of sexual violence is spread the word that people can report sexual assault crimes to them.
This marks the eleventh reported sexual assault case of the 2018-19 academic year. Last academic year, there were 20 reported sexual assaults. Cook said he isn’t surprised by the number of reported assaults, and he hopes people will trust UPD and continue to report sexual violence to them.
“I think that’s why people are more willing to report now,” he said. “In the years past, nobody really wanted to come (to UPD) and make a report because of the backlash they may get from other students or because of the treatment that they get from different law enforcement professionals.”
Cook said when a sexual assault is reported to UPD, they conduct an investigation and inform the survivor of the courses of action that are available to them. These options include filing charges with the city, communicating with the university’s Title IX office or filing charges with UPD.
“We never pressure a survivor into filing charges,” Cook said. “All we do is let them know the resources that are available to them.”
Cook said the reported assault is still under investigation and, as of the time of publication, no charges had been filed.
Colleen Fay, the president of Rebels Against Sexual Assault, also said she isn’t surprised by the number of reported sexual assaults.
“What we know about sexual assault in reporting is that it’s underreported,” Fay said. “We know that even though there have been 11 reports, unfortunately, there have probably been many more that have happened and haven’t been reported.”
Fay said the best way to move forward and continue the conversation around sexual violence is to let survivors of sexual assault know the resources that are available to them and to support them.
“I think the best way is to move forward is to keep educating ourselves,” Fay said. “Also, making sure that the way we talk about sexual assault is appropriate and we don’t joke about it.”
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, in eight out of 10 cases of rape, the survivor knows the perpetrator, and one in three women and one in six men will experience some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.
“I think there’s been a huge shift in the conversations around sexual violence,” Fay said. “I think it’s getting better, but it’s not perfect. There’s still so much that could be done.”
Survivors of sexual violence can contact the sexual assault hotline at 1-800-656-4673 and the university’s Title IX office at 662-915-7045.