The first few semesters in college are exciting. Most of us are fresh out of high school or have never been to an institution of higher education; this may be the first time many of us have been on our own, so the possibilities seem endless. However, there is also a dark side to college. The first five to 10 weeks of school are known as the “Red Zone.” This is a period of increased risk for sexual assault. According to the Rape and Incest National Network “more than 50 percent of college sexual assaults occur in either August, September, October or November.”
While reporting can be distressing, there are certain actions a university can take to ensure you have equal access to an education. UVU is committed to “Stopping sexual assault by creating a community intolerant of sexual violence and harassment,” said Melissa Frost, director of the office of equal opportunity, affirmative action and Title IX. “Being assaulted can create a host of practical and emotional consequences. While you may want to talk to someone you trust, such as a friend or family member, there are also campus resources available.”
If you, or someone you know is assaulted while in college, here are some tips on how to report.
First, it is important to know who to report to at the university. Any faculty, staff or student employee who hears of sexual misconduct is required by law to report the incident to the Title IX office. If you do not want to tell your story more than once you may report directly to Frost, or a counselor. Also, it is helpful to write down the details of the incident in an official statement that you can give to questioning parties, especially if you wish to pursue university sanctions or police action.
Once you have made the report, Frost and other faculty will work with you to ensure you are able to continue your education. They can help you with academic support like deadline extensions and withdrawing from some classes with little to no penalty, or they can refer you to other campus services for help.
The Student Life and Wellness Center has a medical and counseling clinic where students may receive care. It provides cheap, confidential support for students in crisis, or students who simply need counseling. Beware that there is usually a waitlist for counseling, however, tell the receptionist that you are “in crisis” and they will ensure you are seen immediately.
“UVU’s Student Health Services provides free and strictly confidential counseling to students which can be an extremely important part of the healing process. Reports made only to a clinician in student health services are confidential and not reported to the Title IX coordinator,” Frost said. “Student health services provides information regarding options to report to police, report to Title IX and about other help and support available.”
If you wish to report to police, there are some steps that should be taken to ensure evidence is properly preserved. First, get to a safe place as soon as possible. Try to preserve all the physical evidence: don’t bathe, don’t brush your teeth, and save the clothing you were wearing in a paper bag. If it occurred in your home, leave everything as it is. Evidence can be collected up to five days after the assault, but the sooner it is collected, the better. Reporting to the police is useful if you decide to press charges, but it is not your only option. Having a “Code R” medical exam at the Merril Gappmayer Clinic does not require filing criminal charges, but helps preserve evidence until you decide what to do. It also helps with issues like possible pregnancy or STDs. Do not be afraid to seek medical attention. Knowing your options can help you.
If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, call Student Health Services at 801-863-8876 for crisis counseling or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673.
Editor in Chief and life-long student