With various events taking place on campus to teach people about Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the ACU Police Department has more information on campus-related sexual assault.
Sexual assault, as defined by the United States Department of Justice, is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. In simpler terms, any physical sexual encounter that both parties have not verbally agreed on.
In the event that an assault takes place, ACUPD encourages the victim to get to a safe place and notify the authorities immediately. It is important not to shower or bathe after the assault and try to preserve any clothing that was worn at the time of the assault or shortly after.
“It’s hard for victims to report, and it’s something they have to make that decision to do,” said Lieutenant Randy Motz of ACUPD. “Certainly the sooner, the better. From a police perspective, it helps tremendously.”
“Nationwide, sexual assault in general is a monumental problem in our society and in our culture,” said ACUPD Police Chief Jimmy Ellison. “Nationally, there has been a lot of focus on sexual assaults connected to college campuses. With as much focus as there has been on college-campus-related sexual assault, we always like to stress that, statistically speaking, college campuses are by far safer from violent crime than the rest of the general public area.”
The vast majority of assaults that ACUPD deals with, as well as across the nation, tend to be date rape situations or known assailant situations.
“Typically it’s a dating relationship where consent is the issue being debated,” Ellison said. “Even when it is not a consent issue, more often than not, it is a known assailant that a person has either met previously, known in other social settings or has a previous or ongoing dating relationship with.”
“In our society, sexual assault is, statistically, one of the most underreported crimes,” Ellison said. “There are multiple reasons why a victim doesn’t want to come forward – shame, fear, fear of the process of going through the report. Take all of those reasons, and add in the campus element where everybody knows everybody and a person has to be here for the next few years, there is all kinds of reluctance that plays into a victim’s mind. We try to do everything we can to make people understand. Don’t let those factors keep you from making a report, if nothing else, remember that you can remain anonymous.”
According to Texas state law, if a victim decides to remain anonymous, he or she is entitled to choose a pseudonym – a false or made up name – as their name on the file. Once a person files the police report and choses a pseudonym, the victim’s name is no longer related to that case in any way, shape or form. Legally, from that point on, the victim would become “Jane Doe” or whatever name is assigned to the victim.
Motz said alcohol plays a huge roll in increasing a person’s chances of becoming a victim, as the ability to resist is diminished.
“If someone is intoxicated, or otherwise impared, they can’t legally give consent anyway, and that is a situation that we deal with often.” Ellison said. “The absence of a ‘no’ does not equal a ‘yes.'”
ACUPD said they never want a victim to not file an assault report because they are afraid of other disciplinary issues. For example, if a victim comes in and they were sexually assaulted, but they were intoxicated before the assault occurred, a victim should not be afraid to file the report due to fear of discipline by the university for violating an alcohol provision in the code of conduct.
“We want to make sure the victims understand; that could not be further from the truth,” Ellison said. “The institution is worried about protecting them, making them safe and getting their assault remedied. They are not concerned about the alcohol policy infraction.”