White House report on preventing college campus sexual assaults - Tucson News Now

White House report on preventing sexual assaults on college campuses

Posted: Updated:
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

President Obama wants colleges and universities to do more to protect students from sexual assault and to address the needs of victims.

It's all in a report from the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault, called "Not Alone."

The University of Arizona's Megan McKendry says she is excited about the report because it's a step in the right direction, especially because it addresses the needs of survivors.

She says the report also validates actions and programs already in place at the UA.

For instance, the report recommends schools have an advocate for victims, somebody they can turn to for help.

McKendry says she is one of the advocates as the UA Violence Prevention Specialist at Campus Health Services Oasis Against Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence. 

"They recommend that students and survivors know the confidential reporting resources on campus, of which Oasis is one, so that they can go to advocates in confidence and make decisions about whether or not they want to move forward with their report, which is one of their options. They can also confidentially report through Oasis," McKendry says.

UA Police Chief Brian Seastone says the department takes all calls very seriously and conducts  in-depth investigations.

"The one thing about these types of crimes on our campus--it's a whole campus effort. We immediately get the Dean of Students office involved and support networks so that the victim is not only being helped through the criminal justice system, but through the university as well," Seastone says.

McKendry says most sexual assaults of students of all genders involve an acquaintance and often happen in a social situation, such a party.

She says the UA has programs that try to stop that by educating students about safety and by changing the culture that could allow an assault to happen.

The White House report recommends bystander intervention.

It's a program McKendry says was developed at the UA where it's called "Step Up!"

McKendry says the university trains students in bystander intervention to rescue a potential victim, such as woman who has had to much to drink and is unable to consent.

Training helps students know how to intervene safely to stop a would-be perpetrator from acting.

"They find a way to diffuse the situation and it can be a direct or indirect way. Maybe it involves confronting that person and telling them what they're doing is wrong--the perpetrator. Or maybe it involves getting other friends involved and bringing a group of people to confront the potential perpetrator," McKendry says.

McKendry says the UA also is working to harness the power of men to affect change.

She says most men would never commit rape or other sexual assault, however,  most perpetrators are men.

The university actively works to educate male students on how they can help change that culture.

"Someone who may potentially perpetrate this probably cares about what their male peers think, and so we hope to sort of shift those norms, change those attitudes and show men that other men don't condone, in fact they condemn, sexual violence," McKendry says.

Male students we spoke with on campus agree they do have that power and should use it.

"Take the risk to stand up for what you believe in and that's going to show other people--that's what's going to show other people what's right and what's wrong and how you should be acting," says UA student Spencer Escobedo.

Student Kassidy Tompkins agrees that he and other men can have an influence.

"Men can have a big influence on each other and I think it definitely starts with you as an individual. You have to kind of look inside yourself and figure out how you can influence others," he says.

The university says people have to try to keep themselves out of dangerous situations whether it's at a social event or just being out and about.

It's on the minds of female students we talked with.

"I know that I have good friends with me that take care of me and they always watch out for me and give me rides if I need to or walk me home if I need to be walked home," says UA student Bailey Lahtinen.

"We make sure that we all walk together and that's at least three or four women walking together to their cars. We never let each other go by ourselves, that's for sure," says UA student Esmeralda Cecena.

McKendry says the task force makes an important recommendation she would like to implement on campus.

It's a continuing campus climate survey that gauges the campus environment and student attitudes.

To see the task force report click here.

The government also has launched a website for survivors and others called Not Alone.

The phone number for the UA's Oasis program is 520-626-2051.

There is a 24-hour crisis service called SACASA, the Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault.

That phone number is 520-327-7273.

Copyright 2014 Tucson News Now All rights reserved.

Powered by WorldNow