According to the United States Justice Department, 1 in 5 women while 1 in 7 men will experience sexual assault on a college campus
“When I was going on college tours, I saw posters around most of the schools saying that 1 in 5 girls get sexually assaulted on campus,” said Kristen Gibney ‘19. “Sexual assault seemed like an issue before I knew what college I was going to.”
Gibney’s statements reflect those of many students. The statistic indicates that 20 percent of female college students will be victims of sexual assault.
The Jeanne Clery Act defines sexual assault as “rape (oral, anal or vaginal), fondling, incest or statutory rape.” The Clery Act is a consumer protection law that requires all colleges and universities who receive federal funding to share information about crime on campus. It also outlines who the incident should be reported to, their policies and procedures, and the resources provided both on and off campuses for a student, according to the Clery Center’s website. Fairfield’s Clery Report can be found on Fairfield’s website.
Dean of Students Karen Donoghue explained some of the resources that victims of sexual assault have access to on campus, including a confidential advisor. The confidential advisor would be the person they tell their story to.
“The confidential advisor provides additional resources to survivors,” said Donoghue. “They help walk them through the process and can serve as their voice for them, so that the survivor only has to tell their story once. A survivor can find it re-victimizing to have to repeat their story.”
Current reporting procedures are outlined in the school’s handbook, which cites two different ways of reporting an incident of sexual misconduct.
According to the handbook, “A Title IX Sexual Misconduct Complaint is an invocation of the student’s right to have the incident handled through University disciplinary proceedings, while an Incident Report alerts the Department of Public Safety of alleged sexual misconduct and to provide first responder assistance to a complainant of sexual misconduct.”
The Contacts and Resources page of the website says that “the University encourages any student who has been a victim of sexual assault or harassment to report the incident to the University’s Title IX Compliance Coordinator, Public Safety or the Office of the Dean of Students.”
Similar to Fairfield, whose undergraduate population is 3,970, Sacred Heart University has a larger undergraduate population of 5,205. In 2015, Fairfield reported a total of four sexual assault incidents on campus, while Sacred Heart reported zero of these cases on their campus, according to each school’s Clery Reports.
“We know statistically that 20 percent of women will experience sexual assault during their college years,” said Donoghue. “We haven’t received that type of reporting, but that’s similar to college campuses. Sexual assault is the most underreported crime on college campuses.”
Both Fairfield and Sacred Heart follow a similar route for victims of sexual assault to come out to the school. Title IX Coordinator at Sacred Heart, Lenora Campbell said that all students who have experienced or witnessed any form of sexual misconduct or harassment are encouraged to come out to her or the administration.
“It is the responsibility of every ‘Pioneer’ in the Sacred Heart community to comply with the laws and regulations of Title IX to ensure we have a safe environment conducive to learning and student success,“ said Campbell.
Campbell also mentioned multiple programs that advocate for a safe environment on campus, such as survivor candlelight vigils and the Walk-a-Mile in Her Shoes campaign.
Similarly to Sacred Heart, Fairfield also has series designed to address the issue of sexual assault on campus in an attempt to search for a solution to the problem. The University has held the program Step Up Stags since 2014, and in October, in honor of domestic violence month, Fairfield screened the movie “Daisy,” which recounts stories of sexual assault. Additionally, in First Year Experience classes, freshmen are educated on the topics of alcohol culture and hook-up culture.
Unlike Fairfield and Sacred Heart, the University of Connecticut has a larger student body with an undergraduate population of 18,826. Having a total of 49 sexual assault cases in 2015, according to UConn’s 2016 Clery Report, UConn’s ratio of undergraduate population to sexual assault cases is 145:1. Alternatively, Fairfield’s ratio of undergraduate population to sexual assault cases is 993:1.
When asked if sexual assault is considered a big problem on campus, Lieutenant Andrew Fournier of the UConn police department said, “If you even have one sexual assault case a year, it should be considered a big problem. We don’t take sexual assault cases lightly.”
Assistant Director of DPS John Ritchie agreed with Fournier saying, “Sexual assault is an issue on every college campus — Fairfield is not exempt. It’s a matter of how you want to define big.”
Ritchie added that while, statistically speaking, Fairfield only has four sexual assaults, sexual assault still remains an issue on college campuses.
According to Fournier, UConn has its own police department and is able to conduct their own investigation, which differs from procedures conducted by Fairfield and Sacred Heart.
Some of UConn’s resources include self-defense courses, entitled “Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.) Basic Personal Defense System,” specially geared to both women and men, according to Fournier. Fournier added that these courses count for academic credit for those that take them.
According to Donoghue, Fairfield is taking further action to combat sexual assault on campus by sending out a survey “regarding a climate assessment about the attitude and behaviors toward sexual assault and sexual assault awareness.”