CORRECTION (10/27/2019): A previous version of this article contained an inaccuracy about an IFC mandate. The article has been updated to reflect the change. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.
During her first year at UNC, a senior student, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid risk of a no contact order, said she witnessed her friend getting sexually assaulted in Hinton James Residence Hall. By her senior year, she said half of her friends had experienced sexual assault. She had also filed two Title IX complaints of her own and was granted two no contact orders.
That’s why the data released from the Association of American Universities’ Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct, which stated more than a third of female students were victims of sexual assault, did not surprise her.
“It feels good to have (these experiences) validated, but I’m surprised other people found it shocking,” she said. “I’ve been exposed to it since freshman year.”
After her first assault, the first place she went was the Carolina Women’s Center. There, she spoke to a gender violence services coordinator, who urged her to contact the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office and UNC Police.
She said the University needs to invest in resources like this after the results from the survey. As of recently, there is only one GVSC, which the student said is not enough to handle the influx of cases.
“That office was my lifeline,” she said. “It’s so hard to describe what it’s like reporting. It’s life-shattering. And it feels like you can’t do anything but go to that office for three to four weeks.”
The University had two GVSCs until mid-October, when one of the coordinators left. The Carolina Women’s Center is looking to find a new GVSC by spring 2020, and the University is reviewing resources to see if additional staffing is feasible.
The increase in reported sexual assaults did not surprise senior Abby Cooper, but what stood out to her were the locations in which the assaults took place.
The results stated that most assaults happen in residences or fraternity houses. More than 21 percent of assaults occurred in fraternity houses and nearly 21 percent occurred in University residence halls or dorms.
“University housing and frat housing is something the University is supposed to be keeping safe,” Cooper said.
Cooper is the co-director of outreach for Healthy Heels Ambassadors, a health promotion and violence prevention education group through Student Wellness, Campus Health and Counseling and Psychological Services. They have been working with the Interfraternity Council this year to fulfill an IFC mandate to host a violence prevention training, but the training it scheduled was canceled, so the IFC mandate was delayed. Earlier this month the IFC had the Orange County Rape Crisis Center speak to the new members.
“The (Orange County Rape Crisis Center) has educational programming in every public school in Chapel Hill and Carrboro,” Cooper said. “Why isn’t that something that colleges do?”
The University said students can utilize the Ombuds Office and CAPS as confidential resources. Additionally, it encourages sexual assault victims to contact the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office. The University said it is investing in prevention and awareness programs such as One ACT, HAVEN, Delta Advocates and Safe Zone.
"We have trained compassionate and dedicated staff who can help guide students through the possible response options, including campus and community law enforcement, and also provide protective measures and resources," UNC Media Relations said in an email.
Cooper, a policy fellow at OCRCC, utilizes an empowerment-based model and makes sure victims have a strong support system when they come forward. Students from the University can be referred to OCRCC.
Senior Lucy Russell agreed that after the results of the survey, the University needs to take greater action beyond task forces and dedicate a greater financial commitment.
In 2015, the University formed the Prevention Task Force. The recommendations from the task force, which concluded in December 2016, are currently under review by Student Affairs and Workforce, Strategy, Equity and Engagement.
“(Task Forces) are a common response from the University when faced with sticky and heavy issues,” Russell said. “It’s just a task force, and there isn’t any accountability.”
Russell said she was alarmed by the significant underutilization of resources on campus. According to the survey, 82.5 percent of victims did not contact a resource or program. Over half of those who did not contact a resource or program said it was because they did not feel the assault was serious enough to reach out about.
“That really speaks to the fear on campus,” Russell said. “The lack of feeling comfortable enough to get help when needed, that really struck me.”
Over the summer, Russell and Cooper began planning the Coalition Against Violence, a hub for student engagement and a source of advocacy and awareness that extends beyond sexual violence.
The results from the campus climate survey give the coalition a launching pad for conversations about sexual violence on campus.
“We’re able to seize this momentum and seize this attention that the survey is going to get,” Russell said.
Cooper also stressed the importance of changing the entire campus culture toward sexual assault and harassment. She says rape culture has been tolerated for too long.
“Things like misogynistic jokes and talking about sexual assault in a normal way,” Cooper said. “This is not normal. This is really awful.”
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