BC Expands Sexual Assault Resources
Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
“The statistics on sexual violence are both deeply troubling and a call to action for the nation,” reads the Dear Colleague letter issued on April 4, 2011, by the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights regarding the application of Title IX laws to issues of sexual assault.
This letter set in motion a widespread examination on the part of colleges of their current procedures for dealing with sexual assault. At the time, Boston College was already in the midst of reviewing its protocols, policies, and resources regarding sexual violence.
“In fact, we were in very good shape, with respect to [the Dear Colleague letter],” said Dean of Students Paul Chebator “We had to make very minimal changes. Some schools had to make major changes in their system, in terms of how they both supported and then followed through on allegations of sexual assault.”
A committee, co-chaired by Director of the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) Katie Dalton and Angela Amar, former faculty member in the Connell School of Nursing, considered several recommendations for how BC could improve upon the current state of their resources.
“One of the recommendations was, we need to do a better job of communicating to students about resources, important services, protocols, how to report on these kinds of things,” Chebator said.
The committee decided to compile a webpage, www.bc.edu/sar, which would list in one location all of the resources for a victim of sexual assault. The goal is to facilitate and increase awareness of such resources, and the website is now up and running.
“Health Services, Counseling Services, Campus Ministry, the Dean’s Office, Sexual Assault Network, Women’s Resource Center are all things that have been in place for a number of years, and specifically have been involved in conversation over the years about responding to the needs of sexual assault survivors,” Chebator said. “It’s not so much new resources as it is trying to put all that information in one place.”
In addition, by the end of the week, You Are Not Alone, a print brochure outlining these same resources, will be available at certain locations around campus including the Dean of Students Office, the WRC, and the Office of Residential Life.
The opening page of the brochure reads, “You Are Not Alone is written for survivors of sexual assault to provide important information about what conduct is prohibited, resources available on and off campus, how to file a complaint, and to assist survivors in the recovery process and in their efforts to heal from this devastating form of violence.”
In addition to increasing awareness of the available resources, there is also a push toward enacting greater preventative measures, specifically through the existing Bystander Education program.
“The biggest emphasis right now in prevention is expanding the Bystander Education program, because I think a lot of what can be accomplished in prevention is through peer to peer influence,” Chebator said. “We’re in the process of expanding that to greater populations over the next year. Hopefully by the end of the year or so, something will be in place so that every member of the freshman class will be exposed to bystander training.”
According to the Dear Colleague letter, “One in 5 women are victims of completed or attempted sexual assault while in college … 6.1 percent of males were victims of completed or attempted sexual assault during college.”
It is difficult to ascertain how those numbers compare to sexual assault statistics at BC, largely due to the fact that so many attacks go unreported. Chebator remarked that this could possibly be a result of the close-knit student community at BC, where it can seem that everybody knows everybody.
“Sometimes it’s really difficult for survivors to report, because often, if they don’t know the guy, someone they know knows him, or he’s part of the same social circle,” Chebator said. “I’ve heard women tell me that they’ve gotten pressure from their own female friends not to file a report because, ‘Oh, he was drunk, he didn’t mean it, you’re going to ruin his life, he’s a good guy,’ all those kinds of things. So I think it makes it difficult.”
The Office of Student Affairs is currently working on a health-related survey, which they hope will include questions that uncover to some extent how frequent and widespread issues of sexual assault are on BC’s campus.
“One of the difficulties in asking a question about sexual assault is making sure that we’re all talking about the same thing,” Chebator said. “But it’s information we do need to gather here.”