USF community retaliates against sexual misconduct on campus

In the wake of recent incidents on campus, USF committees are getting active in educating students on the dangers of sexual harassment.

According to the USF Police Department, two women were met by a stranger late at night on Nov. 4. They were approached on separate occasions within less than 30 minutes of each other. The situations escalated to inappropriate personal contact before the male suspect fled the scene.

Approximately one in four women will get sexually abused during college, according to the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault. This high statistic could be due to a number of things, said Lori Rogovin, USF’s chairwoman of Title IX President’s Committee for Gender Equality.

“We’re trying to work together to understand and address these issues, because it is an ongoing concern,” said Rogovin. “The people in the committee are committed to educating all faculty, staff and students on these issues [but] there’s still more to do.”

The Title IX Committee compiles an annual report of gender inequality findings in 13 different areas of USF campus life along with suggestions to resolve specific issues. The most recent report addresses sexual misconduct complaints as one of the topics and claims, “knowing the effects of victimization and the process of reporting is crucial to protect victims and to ensure USF personnel appropriately respond to incidents.”

The committee also recommends more training programs to help reduce sexual misconduct and increase victim awareness.

Some students would like to see more information on topics of sexual harassment.

“We need education. We need to be informed on these topics because not everyone perceives sexual harassment in the same way,” said Monica Hartage, a senior psychology major at USF. “There are different tiers of harassment and someone might take a sexual remark more seriously than physical contact.”

Hartage also said that USF needs to make stricter punishments for sexual assault, such as expulsion in cases of rape.

Although USF guidelines clearly state the prohibition of sexual assault, the policy on sexual misconduct is not black and white.  The punishment process can be based on the crime, but the emphasis is placed on what the victim would like to do. The policy reminds students that counseling and health services can be their first resource if they are victims of sexual assault and that police intervention is purely optional in most cases.

“There’s a wide scope of sexual harassment,” said Evelyn Drummond, an information science major at USF. “The victim should have the right to choose to press charges, but that’s after the problem has already happened. We should prevent it from happening in the first place.”

It seems that USF has done the research and evaluation when it comes to addressing sexual harassment issues, but the question of what has been done to prevent it remains unanswered. According to the Victim Advocacy Center at USF, sexual harassment primarily affects women. However, it is a problem that should be addressed by both genders.

Will Bautista, a nursing student at USF, believes that the best way to prevent sexual harassment is to eradicate objectification of women. Bautista is a Relationship Equality and Anti-Violence League trainer at the USF Center for Victim Advocacy and Violent Prevention.   REAL‘s mission is, “to offer men leadership opportunities to educate, support and inspire other men to end sexual and relationship violence.”

“We need to address sexual harassment when it begins because it’s a precursor to sexual violence,” Bautista said. “It starts with catcalls, and when no one complains about it people think it’s okay. By not saying anything you’re allowing someone to be objectified and when you objectify someone you stop treating them like a person.”

Bautista said nearly 30 people come to the Victim Advocacy Center a day, most of them women. Some are returning victims looking for counseling, but the number is still high.

While the REAL program is helping men reach out to aid in preventing sexual violence, there are many milestones to overcome before tackling such a complex issue.

However, there might be a light at the end of this tunnel. Rogovin said that USF is moving in the direction of having mandatory educational sessions for all students, and at a frequent rate too.

“One video about sexual violence at orientation is not enough,” Rogovin said.

She suggested the USF community should constantly send out various waves of information to make sure something sticks each time.

“We’re trying to put more material out there, we’re really vamping it up,” Rogovin said.

Written material, departmental social media sites dedicated to prevention of sexual violence, student government involvement and peer education are all resources utilized by USF to educate students in hopes of preventing sexual misconduct.