By Lauren O’Connor, Contributing Writer
It’s time West Liberty University and its students have a serious conversation about sexual assault. Reports have shown that one in every five college-aged women are victims of campus sexual assault. Up to 10 percent of campus sexual assault victims are men, but those men are usually assaulted by other men. However, a recent report by the Department of Justice found that these statistics are much lower than is being portrayed. There have been several other reports that also had conflicting numbers.
Universities should be more inclined to address and educate students on campus sexual assault. The Department of Justice defines sexual assault as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient”. This includes forced sexual acts, unwanted fondling and attempted rape. The topic and even the word “rape” is a very frightening and sensitive subject to most people, because nobody believes that such a despicable act could happen on a college campus or anywhere else.
West Liberty University is considered the “safest campus in West Virginia” but this does not mean that bad things do not happen on the hill. In 2013, the annual West Liberty University Security and Fire Safety report stated that there were 12 “forcible sex offenses” occurred or were reported from 2010-2013.
These 12 incidences took place in residence halls and other places on campus. It is important to keep in mind that those 12 incidences were the ones that were reported, as not all are comfortable with reporting what happened to them and not everyone knows how to go about reporting them.
West Liberty University has a new sexual assault policy that was approved by the Board of Governors in November.
Bridgette Dawson, Director of the Learning and Student Development Center and Title IX Coordinator, shares her thoughts on the new policy and gives an insight on the plans going forward.
“The new policy is fully complaint with all of the federal mandates including (VAWA, Campus SaVE Act, and Title IX). We are moving in a positive direction and have plans to work with multiple departments to saturate the campus with a bystander invention campaign for the 2015-2016 school year. I have been working with Campus Activities and have several events planned for later this month (along with our poster and twitter campaigns) as well to bring awareness and education to our campus community”.
Information on Title IX can be found on West Liberty University’s website here.
Sexual assault is a serious crime of motive and opportunity. A majority of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. Help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800.656.HOPE, and online here and here. You can also contact campus police at 304-336-8021, the director of health services at 304-336-8049 or you can seek help from someone close to you can trust.