By Matt Kyle | Staff Writer
Sexual assault on college campuses is an issue that unfortunately happens all too frequently. The issue has special precedence at Baylor due to the 2016 scandal involving the Baylor football team.
Between Aug. 30 and Sept. 2 four Title IX cases were reported. These included one case of stalking, one of sexual assault and two of dating violence.
According to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network’s (RAINN) website, 13% of all students in college experience rape or sexual assault; that breaks down to 26.4% of female students and 6.8% of male students. RAINN also notes that over 50% of college sexual assaults occur during August, September, October and November and that new students are at a higher risk of sexual assault.
Dr. Laura Johnson, associate vice president for Equity and Title IX coordinator, said the prevalence of sexual crimes on college campuses can be attributed to students experimenting with newfound freedom, substance use and the college age range of 18 to 22 being at a high risk for sexual assault.
“People who are experimenting with newfound freedoms and things that they’ve not done before — they’ve not yet established their social patterns,” Johnson said. “They’ve got newer friend groups, maybe less opportunity for bystander intervention and less people that are connected to them.”
Johnson also said sexual misconduct is one of the hardest crimes to measure due to underreporting. She estimated that less than half of sexual crimes that occur are reported. According to RAINN, only 20% of female college students who experience incidents of sexual violence report them.
“These types of issues grow and thrive in the dark,” Johnson said.
Johnson also said there are many barriers that prevent college students from reporting incidents of sexual violence. Johnson said many students fear “social suicide” and worry that they won’t be believed.
Additionally, Johnson said many students are hesitant to report because they believe the incident was not serious enough or because the perpetrator was someone they knew.
Johnson said reporting is important for many reasons.
“The number one risk factor for experiencing sexual misconduct is having had a history of experiencing it,” Johnson said. “So if we have an opportunity to intervene or connect with people that have experienced this, our hope is that we can help prevent instances where they might experience something a second or third time.”
Johnson also said reporting instances of sexual violence helps to remove stigmas surrounding survivors of sexual assault and also allows survivors to have a supportive circle around them.
Johnson said Baylor has many programs in place to train students in preventative measures and to raise awareness about sexual assault. Some of these programs include Set the Standard and an online training program, both of which are required for new students.
Johnson said the programs are intended to destigmatize reporting of incidents and to encourage students to come forward, along with establishing social norms around setting boundaries and asking for clear consent.
According to Johnson, the most important preventative measure is bystander intervention. She advised students to always “trust your gut” if you see a situation that seems unsafe.
“There’s really no harm in stepping in and checking with somebody,” Johnson said. “But that being said, you have to do it in a way that is safe and that works with your personality and communication style.”
Johnson outlined three methods for bystanders to intervene in an unsafe situation. The first is to directly approach someone and check with them to make sure they are OK. If a student feels uncomfortable with a direct approach, the second method is to distract the individuals involved in the situation. The third method is delegation; Johnson recommended that students either ask someone else to intervene or call the police.
Baylor spokesperson Lori Fogleman said via email that Baylor PD (BUPD) has many safety measures in place to keep students safe on campus. BUPD officers patrol campus 24/7, and the Baylor Department of Public Safety has a network of over 1,600 security cameras and 81 emergency call boxes on campus that students can use to contact BUPD dispatchers.
Fogleman also said BUPD recommends that students stay alert and cautious of their surroundings, whether they are on campus or off. She said BUPD advises students to travel along routes that are well-lit and to always travel in pairs or groups, especially after dark.
Students can report incidents to the Title IX office for themselves, for another person or anonymously. Johnson said that once a report is received by the office, the first thing Title IX does is reach out to the affected individual with an email offering support resources and ways to move forward. She said decisions on how to move forward are left entirely up to the student.
“We try to keep [students] in the driver’s seat,” Johnson said.
Johnson said if students decide to meet with officials from Title IX, they can choose whether they want to go forward with an investigation and disciplinary case or if they just want to connect with support and resources. These resources include counseling options with the Baylor Counseling Center (BCC) and links and information about both BUPD and Waco PD.
Dr. Randal Boldt, senior associate director of the Baylor Counseling Center, said via email that the BCC offers free and confidential counseling resources to students who have experienced interpersonal violence. These resources include short-term individual counseling, group counseling and consultation and crisis support.
Boldt said that traumatic events like sexual assault can cause a wide range of disruptive mental health issues. He emphasized that the BCC is “here to help” students through the support and guidance of counselors.
Students can reach out to the BCC by calling 254-710-2467 to set up a free and confidential assessment. Students can also contact the non-emergency numbers of BUPD at 254-710-2211 or Waco PD at 254-750-7500 to file a police report.
The emergency number for BUPD is 254-710-2222. Students can also call 911 to report suspicious or dangerous activity on campus.