Offcials react to reported assault

BY RISHABH R. JAIN | AUGUST 26, 2011 7:20 AM

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In the wake of the University of Iowa’s most recent reported sexual assault on campus, University of Iowa President Sally Mason offered few specific plans for prevention of such incidents.

In an interview with TheDaily Iowan Thursday, Mason said providing education to students remains key.

“You don’t expect these things to occur,” she said. “So, recognizing when there is a situation that could lead to behaviors of such kind is a good start in terms of understanding how then to respond or how to get help.”

The alleged assault reportedly occurred in the Daum Residence Hall last weekend, according to a university press release. The assault is the fourth alleged sexual assault or attempted sexual assault since October 2010. The previous three reportedly occurred at the Finkbine driving range, Stanley Hall, and on the Pentacrest.

A UI student was also charged Tuesday with assault causing bodily injury, stemming from a incident in which he allegedly grabbed an female student, forced her into his Hillcrest hall room and maintained physical control, according to a police complaint.

Officials said students should always be aware of their surroundings and report any inappropriate or suspicious behavior on campus.

Karla Miller, the executive director of the Rape Victim Advocacy Program, said sexual assaults are too often left unreported for reasons such as fear of rejection, media exposure, and social isolation.

“Ours is a victim-blaming society,” she said. “People tend to believe that victims call such incidents upon themselves.”

Miller said sexual assaults can not be predicted and students should always maintain awareness.

“We’re constantly trying to provide education,” Mason said. “We’re constantly trying to provide information to people so that they understand that if things like this happen, [they know] what to do, how to try to manage it.”

At present, incoming freshmen are required to take an online course, INFORM’D, which teaches students how to respond if found in a situation that could lead to assault.

Also this year, the UI Student Government has announced it intends to focus on increasing student safety on campus.

“Frankly, I am horrified, and this is tragic,” said UISG President Elliot Higgins about the most recent alleged assault. “The area of focus in our agenda for this year is safety, and news like this highlights why it is so.”

He said one of the most important ideas that the UISG is promoting this year is bystander intervention.

“When friends say that they have each other’s back, we want to promote this belief and underline its importance,” he said, noting that when students go out drinking, they are vulnerable and need to stay in groups.

UISG Vice President Brittany Caplin said she remains optimistic about leaders’ plan to introduce free 24-hour cab service for UI students. “We are collaborating with cab companies, and this service will definitely act as a deterrent for such acts,” she said.

These cabs will run seven days a week and will be open to both males and females.

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