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    Addressing Sexual Assault on Campus

    Sexual assault on campus is a problem which affects the entire Stony BrookUniversity community, according to university police.

    ‘Second to murder, its the worst crime,’ said Douglas F. Little,deputy chief of community relations and patrol for the university’s police department.’Sexual assault doesn’t just affect the victim. There are husbands, fathers,brothers, boyfriends, cousins and friends. You name it–it goes right throughthe whole gamut. It’s a crime against all of us.’

    Little also added that sexual assault is highly under-reported because thevictims may feel embarrassed, may not want to draw attention to themselves ormay fear the inaccurate stigmas put on some victims.

    ‘We try to let everyone know, if you report to [the campus police] youwill not be looked at in a negative way,’ Little said. ‘Law enforcement,as a whole, sees the pain of the victim and the family and the friends. It isso important to have a trust and understanding. We want to get that bad guy–wewant to put that slime in jail.’

    It is hard to say how much sexual assault goes unreported but the statisticsare clear for the reports that are made. In 1998, there were three reports ofrape and one report of sexual abuse.

    The campus police had two reports of date rape and four reports of sexual abusein 1999. In 2000, there were two more reports of date rape and six reports ofsexual abuse followed by one arrest. The figures went down in 2001 with 3 reportedsexual abuse cases and have stayed down into 2002 with 3 date rape reports followedby one arrest, and 2 sexual abuse reports followed by another arrest.

    New York State statutes define sexual assault as any actual or attempted non-consensualsexual activity by a person or by people known or unknown to the victim. Rapeis defined as the act of sexual intercourse with a person against one’s willand consent. The state recognizes that one’s will may be overcome by force,fear, drugs, unconsciousness, intoxication or a physical inability to communicatewillingness. Sexual assault, in any form, is considered a crime in New YorkState.

    One problem that needs to be addressed is date rape, Little said. As many as60 percent of all reported rapes occur between acquaintances, according to theuniversity’s Sexual Assault Protocol and Prevention guide.

    Sexual assault reports are not always followed by an arrest because many victimswait before seeking treatment, Little said. He pointed out that there is a betterchance for an arrest if the victim takes action immediately after the crimeis committed.

    As a victim waits, the physical evidence that may be necessary to convict theattacker is lost, so it is important not to bathe, change clothing, comb one’shair, brush one’s teeth or disturb the area in which the crime occurred, accordingto the university’s Sexual Assault Protocol and Prevention guide.

    Victims often fear getting treatment, because of the physical trauma of sexualabuse, which may prevent collection of important evidence or the opportunityto receive therapy, Little said.

    Sexual assault is also under-reported because one-fourth of women who are rapedbelieved it was serious sexual abuse, but did not know is was a crime, accordingto Jerrold L. Stein, director of residential education and the director of theSexual Assault Facts and Education (SAFE) program.

    Stein also believed that sexual assault is a problem and felt that educationis the key to prevention.

    ‘Sexual assault has long lasting effects,’ Stein said. ‘We aretrying to prevent that. I think the whole air of the [SAFE] program is educationprevention.’

    The SAFE program rigorously trains Stony Brook students to become peer educators.These students serve as role models and help run events which educate and clearup misconceptions about sexual assault. The events are held across campus, inlocal high schools and in local colleges, Stein said.

    Stein added that it is important to educate college students because many ofthem are at a vulnerable age.

    ‘Sexual assault needs to be addressed,’ Stein said. ‘Most sexualassault occurs in the 17 to 24 age range. Many of our students fit into thatage category.’

    Educating students to avoid drugs and alcohol may be an effective way of preventingsexual assault and other crimes, Little said.

    ‘In 95 percent of all crimes committed the perpetrator is under the influenceof alcohol and drugs,’ Little said. ‘It also hampers the victim’sjudgment. I wonder if the victims had not been under the influence of alcoholif they would not have been [in the bad situation] at all. Education is keyhere.’

    Shelly Auster, 32, a graduate student who teaches an introduction to womenstudies course, agreed that education is imperative to preventing sexual assault.

    ‘It is very important to reach out to students and make students awarethat sexual assault can occur in places that seem safe, like a college campus,’Auster said. ‘We need to be proactive about it. Students don’t have towalk alone at night. Services like the walk service are fantastic because theycan prevent attacks.’

    Miriam Martin, 22, a junior from Smithtown agreed that education was importantin allowing students to help themselves.

    ‘Education is very important,’ Martin said. ‘If students areaware of the problems [of sexual assault] they can do something about it.’

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