Sexual Assault Awareness Month
KU offices focused on empowering survivors during the month of April
First published on Kansan.com April 2, 2018, updated May 1
“What do you need? How can I help? Is there a way I can make you feel comfortable?”
Asking these things to survivors of sexual violence is key to helping those survivors embrace their voice, according to Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center Director Jen Brockman.
In the past year, the voices of sexual assault survivors have been heard in almost every facet of American society — from the USA gymnastics team, to Hollywood and even at the University on the pages of legal documents that settled a years-long lawsuit between two survivors and the University, which paid $395,000 to survivors who claimed their alleged rapes weren’t responded to correctly.
Now, the idea of survivors embracing their voices is the theme for this year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month. April has been the month to bring awareness to sexual violence since 2001, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. This year’s “Embrace Your Voice” theme has made its way to the University as well.
There are several events scheduled throughout the month by SAPEC, the Sexual Trauma and Abuse Care Center, and CARE Coordinator Merrill Evans. Evans, who works as an advocate for student survivors of sexual assault at the University, said the month of April allows the work people like her do every day to reach a larger audience.
“Awareness is imperative,” Evans said. “And I think, as a society, you see this kind of shift. Like, let’s prevent these acts of violence from happening instead of just responding to the survivors.”
This shift is one that Evans described as one more focused on prevention. The implementation of mandatory bystander intervention trainings for all University students is an example of this new model making its way to the University, Evans said. More than this, she said, students play a big role through the minor things they do day-to-day in preventing sexual assault.
“I think there are a lot of things that people engage in on a daily basis that are hugely problematic in terms of comments that they make that reinforce rape culture,” Evans said.
Calling out sexist and overtly offensive language is one example of this, according to Evans. Also important, she said, is being aware that there are institutions in place to aid those affected by sexual violence.
In the city of Lawrence alone, there are 12 offices that deal with sexual assault. As Brockman described, there’s a role for everyone to play by raising awareness and acting as activists. Most importantly, however, Brockman said, it’s important to ensure survivors’ voices aren’t being left out.
“When folks are coming into this cause because a friend or a loved one has experienced something, they usually come in with a lot of passion, a lot of anger, wanting to burn things down,” Brockman said. “Always remember to give choice to the survivor and keep their narrative.”
Four years later
In 2014, national criticism led to a sexual assault task force at KU. Almost four years later, 21 of the 27 recommendations made by the task force have been enacted by KU, which has either refused to or scarcely implemented others.
First published on April 9, 2018, updated May 1
Almost four years ago, dozens of students occupied the lawn outside Strong Hall holding signs condemning the University for its handling of a recent rape on campus. The week prior, the rape — as well as the lenient punishment levied by the Student Affairs office — had been described in detail by the Huffington Post in an article that brought the University national attention.
In the four years since then, and three years since a Sexual Assault Task Force made recommendations for how to correct the sexual assault systems on campus, the University has acted swiftly, implementing some policy changes and consistently declining to implement others. Key University administrators involved in that case have also either seen promotions at the University, remained in their roles, or have gone on to be accused of mishandling cases at other institutions.
In that time, however, new offices have been created, mandatory sexual assault trainings have been instituted and an entire generation of students has come and gone — likely leaving a new generation oblivious to the insufficient system that came before them.
On Sept. 2, 2014, the Huffington Post article told the story of an anonymous University student who, after attending a fraternity party in October 2013, was helped back to her dorm and raped by another student. She reported the incident to the KU Public Safety Office two days after it occurred. It then underwent investigation from the Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access, which is responsible for investigating reports of sexual assault at the University.
During the IOA investigation, the student admitted to having non-consensual sex — saying he had sex with her even after she said “stop,” “no” and “I can’t do this.” As punishment, the Office of Student Affairs assigned him a reflection paper and counseling, banned him from University housing and placed him on probation.
After feeling that the sanctions levied by the University were too lenient, the female student appealed. In a statement approximately two weeks after the appeal was filed, Rachel Rolf — who was KU associate general counsel at the time — denied the appeal. According to documents included in the Huffington Post article, Rolf thought punishments from the University should be “educational” and not “punitive.” Rolf now serves as the interim head of KU’s general counsel.
The Lawrence Police Department and District Attorney Charles Branson also refused to investigate or prosecute the case further, and as a result, the student filed a federal complaint against KU.
Following the Huffington Post article and reaction from students, then-Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little created a Sexual Assault Task Force charged with examining the University’s sexual assault policy and procedures.
Over the course of seven months, the 11-member task force investigated four main areas of sexual assault at the University: policy and process improvement, prevention practices, support and advocacy for student victims of crimes, and evaluation of Student Code of Rights and Responsibilities. In its final report, published May 1, 2015, the task force made 27 recommendations, and by September 2015, the University said it had or was in the process of implementing 22 of those.
Alesha Doan, who currently works as a professor of women, gender and sexuality studies at the University, was the chair of the task force. Despite the fact that not all the recommendations were implemented, Doan described the shift from where the University was in 2014 to where it is now as a “success story.”
Doan credits a large part of this shift to the University’s implementation of one recommendation in particular: to create a central prevention and education resource center. Out of this recommendation came the Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center which opened in 2016. In the two years since it opened, the office has, among other things, implemented several individual and group trainings and created consent-focused promotional materials.
In the almost four years since the Huffington Post article, the IOA has not seen an increase in funding from University administration. It has remained with a staff of five individuals: three investigators, a case manager and a director. Shane McCreery, current IOA director, took over in September 2016 after interim Director Josh Jones, who still works in the IOA as the deputy Title IX Investigator. Jones served as interim director following the resignation of Jane McQueeny — the woman in charge of the office at the time of the Huffington Post article.
“When I came on board, I put in some personal preferences, but I was not a change agent,” McCreery said. “[IOA] didn’t need to be rebuilt or anything.”
The IOA was a large part of many of the recommendations made in 2015 by the task force. One of these was to more clearly outline the process of making a complaint to the IOA. In 2017, the IOA received 25 sexual assault complaints, according to data obtained by the Kansan. This was the most received in a year since the office first opened in 2012 and is still much lower than statistics reported by organizations such as the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
In another recommendation, the University was encouraged to regularly publish data and information regarding sexual assault investigations for the public. The University listed this recommendation as “implemented” in its 2015 press release saying they would release updated information “at regularly scheduled intervals.” With the exception of results from a 2017 student survey over sexual assault and violence, the IOA has published no data.
According to McCreery, some sexual assault data is included in the annual Clery safety report, but since it only covers crimes occurring on-campus, it may not include all reported assaults. The office on campus that compiles data for the Clery report is the Office of Student Affairs.
During the mishandled rape allegations, Nick Kehrwald worked in the student affairs office as the director of Student Conduct and Community Standards. Two months after the publication of the Huffington Post article and the federal investigation into the University began, Kehrwald announced he was leaving KU to serve as the associate dean of Student Affairs at the University of Kentucky.
Since moving, Kehrwald has become the center of a separate federal investigation into the University of Kentucky. The lawsuit, which names Kehrwald specifically, was filed in August 2017. He has since been promoted to interim dean of students at the University of Kentucky.
The federal investigations into KU that began in 2014 have since closed. According to Jim Bradshaw, in the U.S. Department of Education Press Office, the Office for Civil Rights updates its website on the first Wednesday of every month with all of its current pending investigations. As of Wednesday, April 4, the website shows two pending investigations into the University.
These investigations, both opened Feb. 4, 2015, are listed as Title IX retaliation and sexual harassment cases. The details of these investigations, Bradshaw said, cannot be discussed by the Office for Civil Rights currently because they are ongoing.
The University remains staunch in not implementing some of the recommendations made by the task force almost three years ago. Some, according to Director of News and Media Relations Erinn Barcomb-Peterson, the University is still not considering. Others, the University listed in its 2015 press release as in the process of being implemented, saying they required cooperation from Student Senate or members of the Greek community. Most of these do not appear to have been fully realized.
The 27 Recommendations
Charge 1: Policy and Procedures Improvement
In her first charge, former Chancellor Gray-Little asked the task force to review University policies related to sexual assault, as well as the way reports of sexual assault and harassment are investigated. The task force made eight recommendations in this area. The University has implemented four of these since then. In order to satisfy these four recommendations, the University revised the definition of “jurisdiction” in the student code, allowing for off-campus behavior to be included. The University also made information on how to report incidents more available and became a part of city-wide teams that address sexual violence.
The following are the four recommendations in this charge that have been implemented:
- Make procedures for filing a sexual assault complaint clear to the public
- Develop an on-campus team for responding to sexual assault
- Encourage reporting of sexual assault to police
- Refine and specify definitions of sexual harassment and sexual assault
The University defended its decision to not implement the task force’s recommendation to allow for hearings in all cases in a 2015 press release, saying “this has the potential to result in a dramatic increase in the number of hearings and, based on our analysis, presents a number of logistical challenges.”
Current IOA Director Shane McCreery said implementing things such as the two-investigator model would be “aspirational,” but the office currently lacks the bandwidth. Although the University said the recommendation to provide information and data was implemented in its 2015 press release, the IOA currently has no original data available. The “Information and Data” section on the IOA website only has the results of the 2017 KU Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence survey conducted by several task force members, Doan. McCreery said some data is included in “decentralized” in reports like the Clery Act, which reports annual crime statistics that occur on campus-owned property.
The following are the four recommendations in this charge that have not been implemented, or the University said it is in the process of implementing:
- Consistently provide information and data on sexual assault to public
- Separate investigation of sexual assault and sexual harassment among investigative staff members
- Require more than one investigator in review and final determination of complaints
- Allow student conduct hearings in all cases, not just those with potentially egregious sanctions
Charge 2: Prevention Practices
In its second charge, the task force addressed the University’s preventative practices and came up with 11 recommendations. Nine of these have been implemented. The implementation of several recommendations made in this area led to the creation of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center and development of trainings mandatory for all undergraduate and graduate students at the University.
A majority of the recommendations in this charge, both implemented and not, involved the IOA. Several of the ones the University refused to implement in this charge had to do with modifications to IOA investigations. In a 2015 press release, the University said it didn’t need to require things such as hearings in all cases, or two investigators determining guilt based on evidence, because such things would be excessive or pose too many “logistical challenges.”
The task force also encouraged the University to create a consistent message regarding sexual assault across all departments and offices, including communities such as fraternities and sororities in the development of this message.
The following are the nine recommendations that have been implemented in this charge:
- Create a central prevention and education research center
- Create prevention programs and trainings to all first-year students
- Make trainings and resources inclusive of all genders and sexualities
- Create a list of community resources and distribute it publicly
- Conduct further and more effective studies on preventing sexual assault
- Create and require prevention-focused training course for student leaders
- Develop comprehensive university messaging
- Create a sexual violence prevention advisory board
- Involve the Greek community in developing prevention programming
One recommendation in this area that, according to Barcomb-Peterson, the University is not considering is requiring that all first-year students live in University housing. According to the 2015 University press release, a lack of adequate housing was one reason this recommendation wasn’t possible. Barcomb-Peterson declined to specify why the University isn’t considering it currently.
Another recommendation in this charge was to modify the ways in which sororities and fraternities recruited members. In the 2015 press release, the University said it was in the process of implementing this, but the Greek community had “opted to not change its practices.” The Kansan reached out to the Interfraternity Council, KU Panhellenic Council, and Director for Fraternity/Sorority Life Amy Long several times without response.
The following are the two recommendations in this charge that either haven’t been implemented or the University said it is in the process of implementing:
- Require all first-year students to live in campus housing
- Eliminating fraternity recruitment of high school students and considering moving all freshman recruitment to the spring semester
Charge 3: Support and Advocacy for Student Victims of Crime
The task force’s third charge was to look into resources and information available for sexual assault survivors at the University. The University has implemented five of the six recommendations made in this area by the task force. These recommendations included better educating and training individuals at the University who were mandatory reporters of sexual assault and, similarly to recommendations in the first charge, making resources more available to students and faculty. The task force also encouraged a better system for billing students for medical services at Watkins Health Center. Billing has been streamlined with offices like Counseling and Psychological Services and Watkins operating on the same billing system.
The following are the five recommendations that have been implemented in this charge:
- Establish partnerships with resources in the Lawrence community
- Increase visibility and expand publicity of resources available to students and employees
- Add statements about resources to existing message at bottom of all KU websites
- Require administrators to educate employees regarding their mandatory reporter status
- Streamline the billing for medical services
There is only one recommendation in this charge that the University has not implemented: Establishing a protocol for mandated reporters at the University. In this recommendation, the task force urged the University to implement a “consistent” protocol for University employees who are required to report instances of sexual assault or harassment to the IOA. The University said this would not be implemented because, according to the 2015 press release, it was an unnecessary step they felt would create confusion and possibly slow down investigations.
The following is the one recommendation that has not been implemented in this charge:
- Establish a consistent protocol for mandated reporters
Charge 4: Evaluation of Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities
The University has implemented both recommendations in this charge that asked the task force to review the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities. In its recommendations, the task force suggested the University revise two specific sections in the code. The University’s power to hear cases involving sexual assault and harassment, as well as intimate partner violence, the task force said, should extend to non-University properties. The recommendations were implemented in 2016 when the definition of “jurisdiction” in the code was amended to include off-campus behavior.
The following are the two recommendations made in this charge that have been implemented:
- Clarify the sexual violence and sexual harassment portion of Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities by incorporating off-campus jurisdiction
- Clarify the intimate partner violence portion of the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities by incorporating off-campus jurisdiction
Education or expulsion
KU's case-by-case process for ruling on, disciplining sexual misconduct
First published on Kansan.com April 16, 2018, updated May 1
When someone is accused of violating the University’s sexual misconduct or sexual harassment policies and are subsequently reported to the Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access, a process is launched to determine the facts of the situation and to issue sanctions, if evidence suggests a finding of guilt.
In 2016, three people were found in violation of the University’s sexual misconduct policies and six in violation of sexual harassment, according to data obtained by the Kansan.
Sexual misconduct is the “large umbrella term” that “includes a wide variety of behavior,” according to Shane McCreery, director of IOA and Title IX coordinator for the University. Sexual harassment falls under that umbrella and is defined as any unwanted “physical contact, advances, and comments ... based on sex or gender stereotypes” that create “an intimidating, hostile or offensive working or educational environment,” according to the University’s policy library.
Further, sexual violence falls under sexual harassment and is defined as “any physical act which is sexual in nature that is committed by force or without the full and informed consent of all persons involved.”
IOA’s role in the process is to determine the facts of the case and whether the evidence suggests a person has violated University policy. If IOA finds enough evidence, the case is passed onto Student Affairs.
Student Affairs conducts either an administrative process or a hearing process and then decides to either uphold, modify or reject the recommended sanctions made by IOA. If Student Affairs upholds or modifies the recommendations of IOA, the vice provost of Student Affairs conducts a final review of the recommendations before issuing the sanctions. Individuals who receive sanctions can face a variety of consequences and obligations.
Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access
IOA receives reports of alleged violations of the University’s sexual misconduct and sexual harassment policies in three ways: third-party mandatory reporters, direct party contacts or walk-ins. All University employees are mandatory reporters, except for professional or pastoral counselors, ombuds, and the campus assistance, resource and education (CARE) coordinator. Direct party contact refers to when a person reports to IOA, via email or phone, that her or she was sexually harassed or assaulted.
Both parties may seek assistance from a parent, attorney, friend or any other person during the process, according to McCreery. As CARE coordinator, Evans will often attend meetings and IOA interviews with complainants to act as an advocate.
“I really get to support students and believe them and show up in whatever way they need me,” Evans said. “Sometimes that’s getting them a drink of water, or making sure they’ve had lunch.”
McCreery said he wants the complainant, the person who identifies as a victim, to control the process if he or she so chooses to meet with IOA after a report is made.
“They have agency over the entire process,” McCreery said.
Complainants may choose to share their story without pursuing action, or they may file a formal complaint. In the latter case, IOA begins its investigation.
“If they file a formal complaint, they’re interviewed, they identify witnesses and we will interview the witnesses,” McCreery said. “We only interview the witnesses that we need to make a factual conclusion.”
There are, however, two instances where IOA investigates the situation regardless of whether a formal complaint is filed: when the respondent, the person accused of violating University policy, has been accused of similar behavior either concurrently or in the past, or when the respondent may be a safety threat.
“There are two circumstances in which I will choose to independently investigate something: If the party has engaged in other acts or was on our radar previously for similar behavior,” McCreery said. “Let’s say, three women come forward and say that this student has stalked them or something like that — or if I believe that the student or faculty or staff member is a danger to others or to themselves.”
Once the complainant and the witnesses have been interviewed by IOA, the respondent is notified by IOA that he or she has been accused of violating University policy.
“The respondent is given the exact same process and information,” McCreery said. “It’s the same resources, same help, same everything because it can be very traumatizing to be accused of this as well.”
The respondent then has a chance to give his or her account of the events and offer up more witnesses.
“They come back, they tell their story, we interview witnesses and gather any evidence, which is most often text messages, emails, things of that nature,” McCreery said.
When all of the evidence has been gathered and all of the witnesses have been interviewed, IOA writes up a summary describing its findings and sends the letter to both the complainant and respondent. If the evidence and accounts differ too greatly, IOA will not make a disciplinary recommendation. Provided there is enough evidence, McCreery said IOA will look at other similar situations to ensure consistency with the recommended sanctions.
“We also want input from the reporting party, again as part of that empowerment,” McCreery said. “You know, what would make you feel comfortable? What is an appropriate sanction? Sometimes the party is like, ‘Listen, I don’t want the person thrown out of school, but I don’t want to be in a class with them. I don’t want them to contact me again.’”
This input guides, but does not dictate, the disciplinary recommendations made to Student Affairs, McCreery said. In the 18 months that he has served as director of IOA at the University, McCreery said Student Affairs has not rejected any of IOA’s recommendations, although it has modified some.
“We’ve had a situation where a student is going to be on disciplinary probation for two years — they’ve reduced it to one,” McCreery said. “We’ve had a recommendation where I recommended a three-year ban from campus. I did not want the student returning to KU while the reporting party was still a student. The hearing panel came back with a 10-year ban.”
Once IOA has come to a conclusion, it sends an administrative report to Student Affairs.
Lance Watson, director of Student Conduct and Community Standards in the Student Affairs office, said he reviews the administrative report from IOA completely and asks IOA for clarification, when necessary. The report details who was interviewed, what IOA concluded and what sanctions are recommended, if there is a finding of responsibility. Watson said if he sees substantial evidence suggesting that there could be a violation, he will reach out to the complainant to gather additional information.
“I want to make sure I give the complainant enough space that if they have other things they’d like to share or other thoughts around sanctions, things like that, that we give them plenty of space to share that information with us,” Watson said.
If the recommended sanctions do not involve suspension or expulsion, and the complainant does not wish for the respondent to be removed from the University, Student Affairs launches an administrative process.
“I allow them to review the report,” Watson said. “I allow them to share all their thoughts on it and the findings. And then I make a determination of whether it’s a violation of the code and in turn what are the appropriate sanctions.”
Examples of sanctions that do not involve separation from the University include alcohol education, if alcohol was involved, sexual misconduct prevention training and disciplinary probation.
Watson said there are a number of factors that go into determining sanctions and whether to modify IOA’s recommendations.
“Usually when we think about sanctioning, what we think about is education,” Watson said. “We think about what’s going to help a student grow from that experience, and we also hope students walk away understanding that being at KU is a big deal. There are a lot of folks that would love to be at a university, but can’t be. And finally, we don’t want to have them come back. We don’t want to have future behavior occur.”
If the recommended sanctions, by the complainant or IOA, involve suspension (separation from the University for up to two years), or expulsion (separation from the University for two or more years), Student Affairs will conduct a formal hearing process.
The hearing panel consists of three people. Two of the panel members are faculty or staff, and the remaining panel member is always a student, Watson said.
“Within that formal hearing process, I effectively present information on behalf of the University,” Watson said. “The complainant can be there as a co-complainant, or they can share their information, or they can come in as a witness and speak to it and then leave, or they can choose not to participate at all.”
After Watson details the reasons for recommending a suspension or expulsion to the hearing panel, the respondent presents their case to the panel. The hearing panel then details its findings and recommendations for Tammara Durham, the vice provost for Student Affairs, who has the final say on upholding, modifying or rejecting the sanctions.
Durham said she rarely modifies the recommendations from the panel, but when she does, it is usually to specify definitions or sanctions within the recommendation.
“Sometimes I knew what they meant, but they were speaking university lingo, and I’ll say, ‘I’m going to be more specific here and say here’s what this means,’” Durham said. “So the specificity could just be defining terms.”
Once Durham has conducted the review, she will send a letter to the respondent and the complainant explaining Student Affair’s conclusion.
Individuals who are found in violation of sexual misconduct or sexual harassment policies face a variety of sanctions from training and educational sessions to removal from the University.
Common sanctions for such violations are preventative training sessions conducted by the Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center. These sessions last six weeks, and each session is approximately 75 minutes long.
“It is a support-group style with other students who are found responsible,” said Jen Brockman, director of SAPEC. “We do this on evidence-based and best practice recommendations. Having individuals who have caused harm to others work in a group together actually provides more productive learning environments and allows individuals to reflect on their behaviors more fully.”
Of the three sexual misconduct violations in 2016, one individual was required to complete an education program through SAPEC. The other two individuals were removed from the University. Of the six sexual harassment violations, four individuals were required to complete such programs and one individual was removed from the University. The remaining individual only had to serve disciplinary probation.
Individuals who miss a group session are required to start the six week training over. Individuals who do not complete assignments given for the training, or who have displayed behavioral issues, may also be required to start over.
In week one, participants set goals and conduct self-assessments. In week two, participants learn about the role of toxic masculinity and entitlement in the perpetration of sexual misconduct. In week three, participants disclose why they were required to take the training program and look into patterns in their behavior. In week four, participants focus on denial and are challenged to eliminate language that justifies their actions. In week five, participants talk about what desires led them to their actions and focus on healthy ways to meet those desires while avoiding harm. In week six, participants conduct a final assessment, revisit their goals and create a written action plan to help them achieve those goals.
Additionally, some individuals have been required to undergo alcohol education conducted through the Health Education Resource Office at Watkins Health Services. There are two different classes for alcohol education sanctions based on the severity of the alcohol use. Individuals found in violation of sexual misconduct or sexual harassment policies who receive these sanctions are required to take the courses one-on-one.
In the alcohol education program reserved for less severe usage, individuals are asked to consider why they use alcohol and set goals that allow them to control their alcohol consumption and drink responsibly, according to Jenny McKee, the program manager for HERO. The education program for more significant alcohol issues is broken down into three sessions. The first two sessions look at family history and establishing goals. The final session is a maintenance check thirty days after the second session.
While alcohol may play a role in sexual misconduct or sexual harassment violations, McKee said alcohol does not cause these violations.
“Alcohol use does not cause sexual assault,” McKee said. “The only thing that can cause a sexual assault, rape, sexual harassment is being in the presence of someone who perpetrates those acts of violence.”
One individual who was found in violation of sexual harassment policies in 2016 was required to take the more significant alcohol education course, and one individual who was found in violation of sexual misconduct was required to take the education for less severe usage.
Removal from the University typically requires more severe violations of the sexual misconduct or sexual harassment policies, including being found in violation for similar behavior multiple times or for nonconsensual sexual activity, according to McCreery.
“Often when we’re talking about a nonconsensual sex act, which would be sexual violence, we would recommend separation from the institution,” McCreery said. “You have a situation where somebody engaged in relationship violence and threatened the person, broke into their apartment, engaged in other acts, either criminal acts or acts of violence, that would lead us to believe this person is a threat to the University community or a threat to this individual.”
Of the three sexual misconduct violations in 2016, two students were removed from the University. One was expelled for three years, while the second was suspended for a semester. Of the six sexual harassment violations, one individual was expelled for five years.
Preventative measures in Student Housing
How RAs at KU are trained in handling instances of sexual assault
Added resources to the University’s campus have allowed for more comprehensive training to be put in place for residential assistants at the dorms, said Aramis Watson, associate director of residence life in the University’s Department of Student Housing.
Watson is referring to resources like the Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center, the Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access and the CARE coordinator, organizations all students and faculty have access to.
However, Watson, who served as an RA during her undergraduate years at the University in 2002, said even before these resources were put into place for students, RAs experienced a basic form of sexual assault training.
“Training, resources and services have grown across the country at colleges and universities,” Watson said. “This growth has advanced and made the training done by housing departments across the country more comprehensive. The training that occurred when I was an RA at KU had the same basic goals we have today: to intervene and provide students [with] resources. As the University and country continue to advance on this topic, so will the trainings that are provided to Housing staff.”
Before the start of every school year, RAs receive two weeks of intensive sexual assault training, according to Jennifer Brockman, director of SAPEC.
As the primary organization that provides sexual assault training for RAs, SAPEC focuses on supplying RAs with information about how to not only prevent situations like sexual assault from occurring, but also how to respond to victims of sexual assault.
“Through our partnership with housing, we’ve been allotted some of that time to be able to work with RAs to make sure they have good skills to be good support to students and those who have been impacted by sexual violence, as well as how they can work to prevent it in the residence halls,” Brockman said.
Since its creation in 2016, SAPEC has partnered with Housing to ensure that RAs and Housing staff receive proper sexual assault training, according to Watson.
Brockman said one of the main prevention initiatives in place that students and RAs are educated in is “Jayhawks Give a Flock.” This program, put in place by SAPEC, is a bystander education and training program developed for students that is imperative in primary prevention work on college campuses, according to Brockman.
The “Jayhawks Give a Flock” program educates RAs on how to recognize instances of sexual assault, when to intervene and ways to help others find emotional and physical support.
“All RAs go through ‘Jayhawks Give a Flock,’ which is the evidence-based national curriculum for bystander intervention. So every year, RAs go through this training process,” Brockman said.
RA sexual assault training comes from a collaboration with partners such as IOA, SAPEC and the CARE coordinator, Watson said. Housing, which follows the curriculum set in place by these organizations, trains RAs extensively through educational program workshops that are presented to them, according to Watson.
All RAs also go through a program known as “Consent at KU,” which educates students about what consent looks like and understanding relationships, according to Brockman.
RAs were not allowed to comment on how the workshop tends to operate in a more detailed sense.
Response to victims
In addition to SAPEC’s prevention training programs for RAs, they also receive training on how to respond to victims of sexual assault such as trauma-informed response, which is working with victims in crisis, and understanding gender-based violence recognition and response training.
“[The programs help] them identify what are those red flag behavior indicators for gender-based violence,” Brockman said, “and if they notice those indicators, who can they talk to, what is their response and what are their requirements as mandated reporters.”
Other resources, like the CARE Coordinator at Watkins Health Center, Merrill Evans, act not only as a free support system for students who are sexual assault survivors, but also take part in the sexual assault training provided to RAs.
Evans said this past January she partnered with SAPEC, where she met with new incoming staff for a presentation on do’s and don’ts when responding to victims of sexual assault.
“These talking points of what not to do can be really helpful because you don’t want them causing any harm,” Evans said.
The primary goal
“The primary goal is emotional well-being. We want RAs to address their needs in the moment, and it is absolutely imperative that individuals have a validating response or you risk shutting them down,” Evans said.
Watson said it is extremely important that RAs know how to respond to survivors because an RA is most likely the first point of contact after an instance of sexual assault.
Watson said reports of sexual assault tend to happen on a peer level, which makes RAs involvement in training crucial for the University, but specifically for dorm life.
“It’s important for our staff to be trained on this because it affects so many people at so many different levels, and it’s important that our resources are readily available for students,” Watson said. “We struggle as an institution if someone doesn’t know the resources available to them, and we’re working very hard to break down those barriers. It’s not out of the ordinary to share with your peer, if we can get more people to utilize that, then it’s just going to make us a stronger campus.”
Earlier this year, it was found that 25 students had filed reports saying they were sexually assaulted on campus in 2017, with residence halls being where most of the reported misconduct took place.
Despite this being the most sexual assaults reported since the University’s Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access opened in 2012, Watson said it doesn’t necessarily mean more sexual assaults are taking place, but rather more students are reporting instances of sexual assault, because they have the resources to do it.
Puja Shah, a senior who has been an RA at Ellsworth Hall for three years now, said undergraduate RAs are required to participate in mandatory trainings during the fall, winter and spring orientations.
Shah said training during the fall semester tends to be the most rigorous time of the year for training because they are dealing with new incoming RAs who are learning the training for the first time, as well as welcoming new and returning students to the dorms.
“During fall semester training, all undergraduate staff members are trained on how to respond to incidents of sexual assault,” Shah said.”Within sexual assault training, KU Student Housing partners with the Office of Sexual Assault and Prevention Education Center to facilitate sessions, such as ‘Bringing in the Bystander Training,’ that educate undergraduate staff on how to safely and properly intervene, respond and report all concerns related to sexual assault.”
If an individual reports sexual assault to an RA, Shah said no matter what, RAs are required to report the information to a senior staff member. RAs are known to the University as mandatory reporters, according to Watson.
“When responding to incidents as such, follow up is case-specific and individualized based off the needs of the survivor and it is reported to the Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access for additional follow-up purposes,” Shah said.
Shah said, as a third-year RA, she believes it is critical that RAs are educated on how to respond to a crisis, the resources available for survivors and how to report situations that may arise, because RAs are the eyes and ears of the community.
“My training has been extremely beneficial for the instances I have had to use it for because it has given me the appropriate tools to serve my community and it has provided resources to me when I may need support as well,” Shah said.
Shah wouldn’t comment on how many times she’s had to use the training.
Stalking and domestic violence
Reports of stalking, domestic violence increase at KU amid rising rates of sexual assault
In the past few years, as instances of reported sexual assault have increased at the University, the Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access has reported that instances of domestic abuse and stalking have increased as well.
At the University, the two areas in the Student Code of Rights and Responsibilities that encompass sexual harassment and violence don’t just include things such as sexual discrimination and rape. They also include instances of domestic violence and stalking.
“Stalking is not accidental,”IOA Director Shane McCreery said. “It is an intentional effort to get any type of attention from that person, even if its negative.”
McCreery said the IOA — which is responsible for investigating instances of sexual assault at the University — has seen a large number of these cases in the last few years. In addition, as he described, these instances range in their complexity and seriousness, sometimes overlapping with sexual assault.
“We’ve seen a rise, and I think it’s because some students think, ‘If I ignore it, it’ll eventually stop,’” McCreery said.
The KU Public Safety Office received three reports of stalking and four reports of domestic violence in 2017, according to Deputy Chief James Anguiano. Since KU PSO officers are mandatory reporters, all of these reports were forwarded to the IOA.
Reports made to the IOA, in any case, result in an initial communication to the reporting party, or survivor. Regardless of whether a party wants to move forward with an investigation, McCreery said that interim measures are offered. One of these interim measures is a no contact order.
“That includes not just contacting face to face, but through any type of social media [or] through third parties,” McCreery said. “It’s not like a restraining order where one party can’t come within 500 feet of another, but it does prevent them from communicating as we determine what happens.”
There are also options for resolving housing or academic conflicts between reporting and responding parties. McCreery said his office works with advisers and student housing in these instances if students need to change classes or housing. In past cases, McCreery said the IOA worked with large apartment complexes to help students break leases or move apartments. One option available to students in these instances is Legal Services for Students.
Although Legal Services for Students can help with disputes between tenants and landlords, they cannot settle disputes between students. LSS Executive Director Jo Hardesty said this is because of the way the office gets its funding — through a required campus fee. LSS receives $16 per student.
“Basically all students have pre-paid for the service,” Hardesty said. “So we’re on retainer for everyone in the student body.”
Another option available to students and Lawrence community members at large is the Willow Domestic Violence Center. Will Averill serves as director of community engagement of the center, which offers outreach services, training, a 24-hour-hotline and a shelter. The center also does preventive work focused on educating individuals, including students, on what healthy relationships look like.
“People don’t always equate healthy relationships with college relationships,” Averill said. “College is seen as a time when you’re supposed to be exploring all of your boundaries. Therefore, it’s easier to forgive what is in fact an abusive relationship.”
The center has established programs to help change and educate on these attitudes, according to Averill, and has brought them to middle and high schools throughout Lawrence. The center even has a local branch of students at the University that do advocacy and education work also centered on changing the attitudes of students.
“Anytime you’re in a situation where you’re not in control of the situation and someone else is controlling the situation, it is an abuse issue, and it is something to be taken very seriously,” Averill said. “We would love to see that attitude change.”