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Editorial: UI can do more on sexual assault

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | AUGUST 28, 2014 5:00 AM

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On Sunday, University of Iowa officials received a report of a sexual assault in a residence hall. On April 16, a student came forward, saying she had been sexually assaulted on campus after returning from a party. UI President Sally Mason responded, “These are not the kinds of things we want to have happen, obviously, but they do happen.”

As of Aug. 25, the UI had issued 12 warnings of sexual misconduct during the 2013-14 academic year. These are just the incidents brought to the attention of the university; there is strong evidence to suggest that most sexual assaults go unreported. The Campus Sexual Assault Study conducted in 2007 by the U.S. Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice found that 19 percent of women experienced sexual assaults that were either attempted or completed. It makes sense that most women would not be comfortable reporting these incidents to their universities or authorities for fear of reprisal or simply because they want to put the incidents behind them.

The UI has introduced a six-point plan to combat sexual assault. The plan includes listening more, adding funding improving communication, cracking down on offenders, increasing support for survivors, and improving prevention and education.  These steps would serve as both preventative measures as well as to increase the disciplinary measures for perpetrators.

Because many sexual assaults are committed with someone the victim knows, friends are often present while this is going on. Through communicating the problem of sexual assault to students, the university aims to increase bystander intervention. This training gives students a chance to learn what they can do if they witness a sexual assault. Given that more than half of sexual assaults have bystanders present, this training is vital.

While the UI still has work to do on this issue, it is far from the only school struggling with sexual-assault cases. In 2012, the Washington Post rated it as No. 41 in a list of schools with sexual-assault incidents. Penn State, Harvard, and the University of Michigan are at the top of the list.

Certain colleges have begun to rely on apps to help curb sexual assaults. The apps, which are downloadable on a smart phone, provide the users with the ability to broadcast their GPS locations.

There is also an option to set a timer that can be started when people leave and will automatically call the authorities if they have not reached their destinations by a certain time. The UI could consider partnering with the creators of these applications, in conjunction with programs such as Safe Ride and Nite Ride.

The Daily Iowan Editorial board believes that while much work has been done on this issue, the struggle is far from over. An environment of learning is impossible without being able to feel safe. It is the university’s responsibility to continue to do everything in its power to make school a leader in the fight on sexual assault, and we believe the university community would benefit from an increased focus on bystander training and introducing apps similar to those other colleges have to help curb sexual assault.


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