Sexual assault prevention being promoted on campus

[Editor’s note: This story is the third part of the multi-series “Violated,” examining the horrors of sexual assault that began with Issue #1 and concludes in Issue #6. Several staff members took it upon themselves to interview, take photographs, and conduct research. The results of their combined efforts follow.]

by SARA MARSHALL//Editor-in-Chief

Preventing sexual assault on college campuses is not an easy task.

Providing proper information to students, training faculty and staff, as well as teaching prevention around the community, are just some ways that South Plains College is trying to prevent sexual assaults on campus.

“All of the faculty and staff at SPC is considered a mandated reporter, except for people who are confidential, which would be any of our counselors or our nurse,” said Dr. Lynn Cleavinger, director of Health and Wellness at SPC. “There’s more and more training with people about ‘here’s your responsibility as a mandated reporter under Title IX.’ If someone comes to a faculty or staff member, they have to report it. We’re also doing training with people in Housing.”

To further educate students on sexual assault, Housing and Dr. Cleavinger are showing “The Hunting Ground” on Oct. 4 at 7 pm. “The Hunting Ground” portrays rape crimes on U.S. college campuses, institutional cover-ups and the toll the assaults take on students and their families.

“‘The Hunting Ground’ just shows how students can turn a horrible experience into motivation and activism for change in our society,” Dr. Cleavinger. “And it’s a great example of how people did just that.”

Dr. Cleavinger voiced her hope that someday there would never be a person who engaged in a sexual act without the other person’s consent.

“If we do that, there’s no rape,” Dr. Cleavinger said. “If we all learn to respect each other, respect choices and not do that.”

Dr. Cleavinger warns students about the dangers of assuming an attacker is always a stranger.

“I think a lot of times when people think about rape, they think that it’s that creepy dude in a long trench coat that jumps out of the bushes at people and rapes them and leaves, that it’s a stranger,” Cleavinger said. “I mean, yes, those do occur, but most of the time the people knew each other. At least on a certain level, (they) knew each other.”

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that in eight out of 10 cases of rape, the victim will know the person who assaults him or her.

“It’s difficult when you have this view of ‘I was raped and only rapists are these people that jump out of these bushes at you,’ the stranger danger kind of component,” Dr. Cleavinger said. “And then it turns out to be this person I know, or knew, that I care about, that I’m friends with, and then that happens. It makes it that much more difficult for a victim.”

The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that for every 1,000 women attending a college or university, there are 35 incidents of rape each academic year.

“If we have one sexual assault on campus, that’s way too many for me, but I’m also a realist,” Dr. Cleavinger said. “So if/when there is a sexual assault on campus, I want the victim to be taken care of. I want the victim to not feel alone and not feel blamed, and to be able to continue their education in a way that doesn’t have to derail everything. I am passionate as an institution we take that very seriously, and we support people on it.”

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 95 percent of campus sexual assaults go unreported. Dr. Cleavinger and the SPC administration are working to get it to a point where people feel that sexual assault is not as traumatizing to report, to reduce the number of unreported assaults.

“That’s hugely important to me, that people feel safe in terms of reporting it,” Dr. Cleavinger said. “Victims can sometimes feel embarrassed, or they blame themselves. It’s one of those taboo subjects that we don’t talk about. I think we, as the SPC community, can do wonders for helping stand up for victims. Helping bring out on the forefront of conversation the whole consent talk. I think that’s incredibly important, and we are going to continue doing that.”

For those who are sexually assaulted, Dr. Cleavinger recommends victims should get medical attention as soon as possible, even if a victim does not wish to press charges on his or her attacker at that time.

“They can collect biological evidence through a SANE exam, which is an exam that a sexual assault nurse examiner does where they can collect physical evidence,” Dr. Cleavinger said. “But they also can make sure that that victim is medically OK in terms of ‘there’s some preventative medications that can prevent some sexually transmitted infections.’ There’s a lot of good reasons to go do that SANE exam. And so I really encourage that.”

Evidence collected through a SANE exam can be successfully gathered for up to 96 hours after an assault.

“You don’t have to decide at that moment if you want to press charges or go through legal anything like that,” Dr. Cleavinger said. “But it’s nice to have, say a month later, if you choose that ‘you know I’m in a different spot, and I want to advocate for myself, and I want to choose this.’ So, they have that information and can go forward at that point.”

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that in eight out of 10 cases of rape, the victim will know the person who assaults him or her.

“It’s difficult when you have this view of ‘I was raped and only rapists are these people that jump out of these bushes at you,’ the stranger danger kind of component,” Dr. Cleavinger said. “And then it turns out to be this person I know, or knew, that I care about, that I’m friends with, and then that happens. It makes it that much more difficult for a victim.”

The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that for every 1,000 women attending a college or university, there are 35 incidents of rape each academic year.

“If we have one sexual assault on campus, that’s way too many for me, but I’m also a realist,” Dr. Cleavinger said. “So if/when there is a sexual assault on campus, I want the victim to be taken care of. I want the victim to not feel alone and not feel blamed, and to be able to continue their education in a way that doesn’t have to derail everything. I am passionate as an institution we take that very seriously, and we support people on it.”

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 95 percent of campus sexual assaults go unreported. Dr. Cleavinger and the SPC administration are working to get it to a point where people feel that sexual assault is not as traumatizing to report, to reduce the number of unreported assaults.

“That’s hugely important to me, that people feel safe in terms of reporting it,” Dr. Cleavinger said. “Victims can sometimes feel embarrassed, or they blame themselves. It’s one of those taboo subjects that we don’t talk about. I think we, as the SPC community, can do wonders for helping stand up for victims. Helping bring out on the forefront of conversation the whole consent talk. I think that’s incredibly important, and we are going to continue doing that.”

For those who are sexually assaulted, Dr. Cleavinger recommends victims should get medical attention as soon as possible, even if a victim does not wish to press charges on his or her attacker at that time.

“They can collect biological evidence through a SANE exam, which is an exam that a sexual assault nurse examiner does where they can collect physical evidence,” Dr. Cleavinger said. “But they also can make sure that that victim is medically OK in terms of ‘there’s some preventative medications that can prevent some sexually transmitted infections.’ There’s a lot of good reasons to go do that SANE exam. And so I really encourage that.”

Evidence collected through a SANE exam can be successfully gathered for up to 96 hours after an assault.

“You don’t have to decide at that moment if you want to press charges or go through legal anything like that,” Dr. Cleavinger said. “But it’s nice to have, say a month later, if you choose that ‘you know I’m in a different spot, and I want to advocate for myself, and I want to choose this.’ So, they have that information and can go forward at that point.”

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