Students get crash course in sexual assault reporting


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Students and community members were offered a unique opportunity Wednesday night to better understand the programs available and the processes involved when someone choses to report sexual assault on campus.

In efforts to better support survivors, the Office of the Sexual Misconduct Response Coordinator sponsored an event walking interested University of Iowa students through the sometimes complicated options available.

“What we hoped that it would show is that it’s a multidisciplinary process,” said Monique DiCarlo, the coordinator of the office.

DiCarlo and representatives from four other offices involved in the process of aiding victims or investigating sexual assault presented two hypothetical situations — one in which a student received unwanted compliments and gestures from a university instructor and one in which the student was “groped” during the instructor’s office hours.

The representatives explained a wide variety of actions the theoretical student could take through the various offices.

“Our goal is to provide them the most options available, because they didn’t have options at the time of the assault,” said David Visin, the interim assistant vice president for the UI police.

Whom victims report assaults to can be important in ensuring they achieve the outcome that benefits them the most.

“I support one person and that is the survivor, the person who asked for our services,” Rape Victim Advocacy Program Director Jennifer Carlson said. “Whether or not the student comes forward, that doesn’t affect the services they can get from us.”

Other departments must remain neutral.

“We take the criminal complaint and the information. We gather as much evidence as we can,” Visin said. “We’re a neutral fact-finder.”

He said people who have received reports of sexual assault typically would not have to reach out to the UI police unless they are certain officials, such as coaches, resident assistants, deans of students, or other authorities.

These mandatory reports do not share the victim’s name against her or his wishes and instead are made into reports that include general information such as the time and place of the assault for the sake of collecting statistics and being transparent, he said.

“This is always a work in progress,” Visin said. “These are goals we’re working towards indefinitely.”

The group’s focus was university-oriented, especially in regard to informal resolutions versus formal investigations.

Carlson said one of the big differences between a criminal investigation and internal action is the time frame.

“The university’s system moves faster than something that would go through the criminal-justice system,” she said. “Also, the standard of proof is much lower in the university setting.”

Carlson noted that she believes the survivors don’t have vengeful attitudes toward those who assaulted them and simply want them to be held accountable. Therefore, she said, sanctions through the university can be more “palatable” to the survivor than criminal punishment because they often know the assailants and previously had a relationship with them.

“They know this individual was not a monster 365 days of the year they had interactions with them,” Carlson said.

Overall, she said, she was satisfied with the event and the information the group was able to present to those in attendance.

“I thought there was a great response from a mixture of students, faculty, and staff that we could see in the audience,” she said.

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