Rejoinder: Unreported sexual assault is still sexual assault
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On behalf of Jeff Newton, UT’s chief of police, and Donald Kamm, director of our Title IX office, I want to express our deep concern about the views expressed in the letter that appeared in last week’s edition of your paper about unreported sexual assaults at UT.
As I have stated in a previous communication to our students, sexual assault is never acceptable. We found the stories reported to be terribly disturbing, both because of the impact the assaults had on the women who told their stories, and also because of the perception of the University’s response to some of the incidents.
We take every report of sexual assault very seriously at the University. Members of our UT police department are trained to be sensitive to victims of assault and to provide as much support as possible to someone reporting a sexual assault. After reading the letter, our police chief personally reviewed all records to see if he could determine what may have transpired to have left the victim feeling so disillusioned. He could not find anything in his records that indicated a victim was treated improperly, but we realize that if a victim remembers her experience with the police in a negative way, perception is reality. We are so very sorry that she had that experience.
Our Title IX office also reviewed the case in which the victim felt the University failed to listen when she indicated she did not want to be contacted. The role of our Title IX office is to protect the rights of all students. We have policies in place that attempt to ensure all reported cases are investigated, even when a victim no longer wants to participate. This is done in the interest of protecting the safety of the victim, as well as others at the University. We are sorry that the student felt further violated by our attempts to learn the truth.
We feel strongly that the information you provided warrants more than a letter from us. In the next weeks, I will be convening a discussion with my senior leaders to discuss additional ways to address this problem. The safety of our students is my very first priority, and we want to do all we can to help eliminate these occurrences.
UT created the Center for Student Advocacy and Wellness last year to strengthen our efforts to prevent sexual violence and help survivors. We have hired a full-time, dedicated counselor and victim advocate funded by the center. These efforts complement the support services provided by the Sexual Assault Education and Prevention Program already happening at the counseling center and through our partner, the Hope Center. We are making progress, but it’s never fast enough. Any student, faculty or staff member can receive immediate assistance or have questions answered by calling 419-530-3431 (24 hours a day).
If anyone has ideas as to what else we can do to address this very serious problem, please encourage them to reach out to me at [email protected].
Sharon L. Gaber, Ph.D.