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    RAs Offer Praise for Post-Attack Training, Voice Concerns of Safety

    SB students are still reeling from an unusual and unnerving series of attacks on students that raised serious questions about the safety of students on campus. Nowhere was the sense of urgency greater than in the resident halls on campus, where the resident assistants in the dorms were reminded of the importance of how to handle criminal activities.

    Two of the attacks in late October were on female students. One victim was jogging when a male jumped out of the woods and tried to grab her. According to ABC 7, which brought a camera crew onto campus on Nov. 2, the victim told her assailant that she was HIV positive and he fled. Days later, a second female returned to her room to find the door unlocked and a male waiting inside. The victim reported being touched inappropriately.

    At any university, RAs are given directions on how to deal with sexual abuse cases. However, the RAs at SB have varying opinions on the handling of the training and effectiveness of their actions.

    According to Eric Burgie, a former RA in Mendelsohn Quad, ‘the protocol for something like sexual harassment or assault was to report it to one’s RHD and/or UPD if a situation were to arise.’ Burgie continued, adding that ‘[RAs] are told not to interfere personally, but to go to our superiors, who are ‘equipped’ to deal with such problems.’

    Those instructions left Burgie feeling a little helpless should he ever have had to deal with a serious situation.

    ‘I wish’hellip;that they would train the RAs more on how to handle this sort of situation as well, instead of just making us play ignorant and passing it off to a superior,’ Burgie said. ‘It’s supposedly for our own good, but what if the person(s) involved would be more apt for [seeking] help if it were a peer giving it to them rather than a ‘superior’ that could be intimidating?’

    Alexander Bruno, an RA in the Cardozo building in Roth Quad, has had a different experience.

    ‘I think the training was really good,’ said Bruno of his RA training. ‘And I think the training actually improved a lot following those attacks.’ The training Bruno was referring to is a part of the ‘bystander intervention training’ program, implemented as additional training after the recent incidents, providing crucial tools to students who may witness a sexual abuse incident and not be sure how to proceed.

    Assistant Chief of the University Police Department Doug Little added his comments on what students should do if they come across a questionable situation.

    ‘Whenever students are not sure if they are doing the right thing, they should contact us,’ he said in a phone interview.

    ‘The problem is that people are afraid to ask questions sometimes. They don’t want to feel stupid,’ said Little, adding that students shouldn’t feel inclined to be right all the time. ‘If [an incident] turns out to be nothing, then we just move on.’

    There has also been a considerable amount of skepticism regarding the number of sexual abuses that actually occur on campus versus those reported by the police and the campus media.

    ‘I think that the problem is a lot more common than most people think,’ said one female RA in Roosevelt who asked to remain anonymous, of these sexual incidents. ‘I know of incidents that have not been reported by any of the papers or by the university.’

    An H-Quad RA, who also asked to remain unnamed, echoed those claims. ‘I know that police are not reporting all of the incidents that [we] deal with,’ the RA said.

    A lot of the secrecy involved in the alleged incidents stems from the victims’ not wanting to contact police or even inform their resident assistants.

    Kathy Gurnevich, a former resident assistant who graduated in 2007, had similar concerns.

    ‘People seem to hide those kinds of things because it makes the university look bad,’ she said in an online conversation.

    Burgie, who was an RA in Irving for three years, agrees. ‘I’m sure a lot goes on that is not publicized or documented either because people just don’t know about it, or they’re not speaking up about it and telling someone in a position of authority who can do something about it.’

    But university police Assistant Chief Doug Little said that the responsibility of notifying the police rests with the victim and their resident assistant.

    ‘Resident assistants have a tough job, I understand that,’ Little said. ‘They should put the responsibility on the police department.’ He added that RAs should ‘never think that their shoulders are that wide’ as to handle a sexual abuse case on their own.

    A lot of the secrecy involved in the alleged incidents stems from the victims’ not wanting to contact police or even inform their resident assistants.

    ‘I think we need to make sure any possible victims know that there are many great resources on campus,’ said Little, specifically mentioning Dr. Naitian Wang from the University Counseling Center as a ‘fantastic trainer’ of ways to handle these types of sexual abuse cases.

    Little cited cases where there have been serious incidents involving students and they have turned to the counseling center for support, urging students who may be experiencing abuse to do the same.

    There are also questions about what constitutes a sexual assault versus sexual harassment, and where responsibilities lie when a student witnesses such an incident. But again, Little suggests that the best way to deal with these types of incidents is to ask.

    Despite the concerns raised by both RAs and the University Police department, the RA training program receives high marks from Little.

    ‘I have the utmost respect for RAs. I admire them because it’s not an easy job they have; they have a huge responsibility since they are in a position of authority among their peers,’ said Little.

    Things have quieted down on campus since last week, but Little asked students to remain vigilant in preventing future incidents on campus.

    ‘The major problem on campus are these crimes of opportunity,’ Little said. ‘Always remember to close and lock your doors, and make sure that dorms into residential areas aren’t propped open.’

    If students have experienced any kind of sexual abuse, they are urged to contact the university counseling center at 2-6720 from any campus phone.

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