Officials stress discussion after 3 sex assaults at UI dorms in 2012


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Charges filed this week in an alleged sexual assault at Currier Residence Hall marked the third such incident in 2012, according to records obtained by The Daily Iowan.

University of Iowa police records indicate three sexual assaults have been reported this year in university housing. In 2011, there were two reported incidents; police received no reports in 2010.

In the wake of the rising number of sexual assaults in UI housing, officials are encouraging students to remain vigilant and speak up about sexual violence. Further, the incidents have prompted a dialogue recently among UI officials and local advocacy groups about sexual assault and assault education on campus.

“Sexual assault is often something people aren’t willing to talk about,” said Susan Junis, education coordinator for the Rape Victim Advocacy Program. “A lot of people write it off or think, ‘This is something that’s never going to happen to me or anyone I know, so why does it matter to me?’ ”

Davenport resident Jordan Garr, 21, was charged with assault, false imprisonment, and extortion following an alleged sexual assault at Currier on April 18 and May 10-11.

Garr allegedly took a video of a female subject taking her clothes off and threatened to post the video online if she did not perform oral sex on him and another subject.

Junis said education about sexual assaults and preventative measures is a major priority for the Rape Victim Advocacy Program. She said one of the best assault-prevention methods is creating an open dialogue on campus.

“Our prevention efforts are focused on getting that dialogue started in a way that people will care [about],” she said, noting that [Rape Victim Advocacy Program] distributes information cards to every dorm resident and every resident of a fraternity or sorority house. She said this year’s campaign, How Do You Act, focuses on consent in sexual situations.

In December 2011, the university received a $300,000 grant from the Office on Violence Against Women to help improve the school’s responses to sexual assault incidents.

Monique DiCarlo, sexual misconduct response coordinator for the UI, said the funds are being distributed among a variety of initiatives. She said the money is funding programs through the UI police, the Women’s Resource and Action Center, and improvements to the Nformd education program that all incoming UI students are required to complete.

And DiCarlo agreed with Junis on the importance of education about sexual assault and the value of peer accountability.

“The most important thing to remember about preventing an incident like [this] is all of us have the opportunity to be a bystander, to step in and prevent something that may be hurtful,” she said. “It could be that we’re calling for help, it could be interrupting a hurtful comment, but all of that is important.”

UI spokesman Tom Moore said the university uses a multifaceted approach to help inform students about safe practices, assault prevention, and reporting a crime when one does occur. He said the UI sends information through several channels, including mass emails, social media, and crime prevention newsletters.

Moore said the residence halls have measures in place to prevent outside access from people who do not live in the halls, as well as security officers who patrol the halls. He said one problem, however, is residents propping open exterior doors.

“Students are encouraged not to prop open exterior residence hall doors that may allow access to those who should not be in the residence halls,” he said.

Chris McGoey, a national crime-prevention and security expert, agreed with Moore, but also said many assaults do not come from an outside source.

“Most of them are student-on-student sexual assaults, or an acquaintance of a student,” he said, adding it’s important for students to always be aware of their surroundings and the people they are with.

But above all, McGoey said it’s important to promote assault prevention education — and to take it seriously.

“You can have all the programs in place you want, but if the students are just going to blow it off, then sexual assaults are going to happen,” he said.

Junis said the recent assaults on campus, while not a good thing themselves, have prompted a necessary dialogue — both on and off-campus.

“I think events like this spurring conversation is really important,” she said. “Starting people talking and getting those dialogues going is so important so people realize this is something that affects people, this is something that students can do something about.”

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