Four cases of sexual assault were reported on campus last semester, prompting Fairfield officials to respond to a White House call for action to lower the amount of these attacks.

One in every five women will be a victim of sexual assault in college, Dean of Students Karen Donoghue ‘03 told a campus press conference on Feb. 19.

One of the areas Donoghue oversees at Fairfield is sexual assault. Despite four reported cases last semester alone, Donoghue says reporting rates for sexual assault are at an all-time low. She said she works to provide support for victims, and encourages those who have been assaulted to come forward.

Donoghue said part of Fairfield’s response to the memorandum is through raising students’ awareness of sexual assault and giving them helpful resources if it does happen. Another way Fairfield is combatting sexual assault is by ensuring that campus officials are prepared if a case comes forward.

“We need to train officials to be able to have these conversations in a very appropriate way,” said Donoghue.

But not all victims of sexual assault choose to come forward. It may be difficult for victims to come forward due to the size of Fairfield’s student body, according to Donoghue. With such a small campus, it is probable that a victim will see the offender again.

Society’s way of viewing assaults is another reason why victims may not feel comfortable coming forward. Many believe that intoxication plays a role in the occurrence of sexual assault. According to Donoghue, whether a victim was intoxicated or sober does not matter.

“Just because someone is drunk doesn’t mean they should be sexually assaulted,” said Donoghue.

In addition to encouraging victims to come forward, Donoghue said she wants to ensure that they are being supported. Victims of sexual assault have high levels of post-traumatic stress, which may eventually cause them to leave school. There are many accommodation options available to victims, such as taking online classes or being designated a separate dining space.

Donoghue attended Fairfield herself, graduated in 2003, and returned to campus as associate director of residence life in 2007. She has been the dean of students for the past three years, and over that time she said she realized her passion for standing against sexual assault.

“I’ve realized the stark reality that this is occurring on our college campus and it’s not okay. I feel an obligation in my role to do something about this,” said Donoghue.

Although many view Donoghue as the face of student conduct, she is also devoting time and energy to combatting sexual assault both on campus and in modern society.

“We need to change this culture,” said Donoghue, “because it’s never okay to treat anyone with violence, especially sexual violence.”

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