Prevention requires discussion: Sexual assault & harassment

Assault and harassment on campus.

A transgender student left TU last year after an incident of sexual harassment that made her feel unsafe on campus. She asked that we not use her name.

The student shared that in early October 2015 she was walking past Greek Housing on her way to work. Because she is pre-HRT (hormone replacement therapy) she does not typically “pass” as female and believes that is what prompted the harassment.

According to the student, a group of unidentified young men heckled her as she walked past. The verbal harassment included liberal use of the word “tranny” and other LGBTQ+-related slurs, as well as questions about her genitals and whether or not she was a “real girl”.

“I was lucky that I was near the Student Union Center (sic), ran and they didn’t pursue,” she shared.

Later in the day she met with a campus security officer, but chose not to file a report because she felt as though he didn’t believe her story.

“The next day, I woke up late and took the same route because it was the quickest and the same guys were waiting, sans one,” she shared. On the second encounter the young men were reportedly more hostile, openly threatening sexual violence.

The student ran past them and called Campus Security again. She reported the incident and location to an officer, but without the names of the men or proof of the encounter she was told there was little that could be done. Instead the officer advised her to take another route to work.

After the incident she was afraid to be alone on campus. She contacted Student Services for assistance, who referred her back to Campus Security once again. For the remainder of the semester she relied on close friends to drive her across campus and walk through buildings with her in order to avoid aggressors.

“I would never linger anywhere it was not 100 percent necessary,” she said.

The student took steps to avoid another encounter, but these measures resulted in fear, unease and stress. She left TU at the end of the fall semester.

She is by no means alone in her feeling of being unsafe on campus, or that she had nowhere to turn to for support. Statistics indicate that although sexual harassment is fairly common on college campuses, few victims file reports. For example, 90 percent of rapes on college campuses are committed by someone the victim knows personally. In the greater population, that number is only 75 percent.

One in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college.

It is estimated that more than 90 percent of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report their assault.

81 percent of women and 35 percent of men report significant short-term or long-term impacts such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after experiencing some form of sexual violence.

University procedures and ways to find help on campus

Julie Friedel is a sexual assault investigator and patrol corporal with TU’s Campus Police who has had extensive training in how to investigate sex crimes. In the four years she has been with TU, she has taken over 220 hours of courses in handling sex crimes.

“As far as our security department goes, we are right up there with most police departments in the state of Oklahoma when it comes to the amount of training we do,” Friedel told The Collegian. “With our license we are required to do 16 hours of continuing education every year.”

“All of our officers go through an 8 hour sexual assault class,” Friedel said. Additionally, officers are trained in dealing with traumatic memory recollection and how to conduct cognitive interviews.

Interviewing victims of sexual assault requires a special procedure and extra care. “Memories of someone who goes through a sexual assault are not stored in a normal pattern,” Friedel explained. For this reason, investigators will give a victim one to three sleep cycles after the incident to process what happened to them and begin to recall crucial details.

“The way we interview [victims] is different than the way we interview suspects,” Friedel stated. “We just let them talk to us without interrupting.”

Another facet of training is victimology, the study of the psychological impact the experience of the crime has on the victim. This allows officers to understand the different responses victims may have when being interviewed. Friedel explained that “Some people respond angrily, some are quiet and some laugh so the main thing is you don’t want to judge them. You start by believing.”

Campus Security uses the same processes for investigating both sexual assault and sexual harassment. There is no time limit on when a student can report their instance of assault or harassment.

“Usually an initial report is made and then I do an investigation,” Friedel said. “In fact, most sexual assaults are not reported immediately because they know the person that assaulted them.”

“Unfortunately this is a small school and so there are a lot of fears that our victims have that they think everybody knows what happened to them.”

Friedel also stressed that the University tries to be on the proactive side when it comes to instances of sexual violence. “We try to do a lot of safety talks and the one thing we stress is for people to lock their doors.”

Friedel described a triangle of victimization which includes the attacker, the victim and opportunity. “If you can take one of those out of the triangle,” she explained, “you don’t have a triangle anymore, so the opportunity is where we say, ‘lock your doors’.”

Alcohol is the number one rape drug and so Friedel wanted students to know, “if you’re going to drink, have a buddy.”

“We also offer free to the students RAD for women and men,” Friedel said. RAD is a series of sexual assault prevention courses for women and men. The course for women is called Rape Aggression Defense and the course for men is Resisting Aggression through Defense. These self-defense courses are on the event calendar for the last two weeks of September, and there will be one class in October. Sign-up is not required, but is encouraged so there are enough instructors on hand. More information about the courses can be found in the event calendar.

Alongside RAD there are other programs student can use as resources, like HAVEN, the mandatory online sexual assault course all students have to take in order to enroll for the spring semester. Friedel emphasized this by saying, “We have to have [student] buy-in to have bystander intervention and we have to have their buy-in to report and encourage a victim to report.”

There are numerous options for reporting assault or harassment at TU, each with varying degrees of anonymity. There is no time limit to reporting a sex crime. “If they don’t report we don’t know it happened and we can’t do anything about it,” Friedel said.

If a student doesn’t want to file criminal charges with their report, the school will take action. If a student does want to file criminal charges, campus police will put them in contact with the Tulsa Police Department and will assist them in getting a protective order. For more information on how to report a case of sexual assault or harrasment you can go to

Recommendations from and Comparisons to outside sources. Improving TU’s response to sexual assault.

According to a US News report, many colleges are attempting to prevent harassment by moving away from traditional programs. Traditional programs are “brief – one hour or less – and focused on improving knowledge about the problem,” according to behavioral scientist Sarah DeGue. “Knowledge is important, but it’s clear these programs don’t prevent people from perpetuating sexual violence.” TU’s program HAVEN can be best compared to these traditional programs.

Instead, Elon University requires an online semester course, Indiana University incorporates consent training into orientation as a musical, and the University of California is implementing a 10-year plan. UC-Santa Cruz has a week-long program called “Consent Week.” Other schools have made moves such as banning hard alcohol or restricting parties to a certain amount of guests.

Bystander intervention programs have proven to be very effective at many schools. A 2014 University of Kentucky study showed that the use of Green Dot, a common bystander intervention program, in Kentucky high schools was connected with a 50 percent drop in sexual harassment at those schools over 5 years. TU has its own bystander intervention classes through Advocacy Alliance, but these courses have been small and have gone largely unattended by students.

At some schools, student groups such as fraternities and sororities are not only learning about sexual violence, but also actively helping to get the word out. Many programs are focusing on defining consent, since so often sexual assault occurs when one or both parties are drunk. TU has hosted a few sexual assault workshops and events of that nature in the past.

Additionally, some colleges and universities offer self-defense courses and Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) programs, just like the ones that TU has begun to offer.

In light of some victims’ interactions with poorly trained officers, many schools are beginning to implement the sort of training that Julie Friedel described as part of TU’s officer training program. The University of Michigan and Michigan State University have created a Special Victims Unit within the campus police department in order to promote better evidence gathering and more sensitive treatment of victims of harassment. In a similar vein, the University of Pennsylvania employs a former sex crimes investigator to preside over cases, and Harvard created a central office with professional investigators.

Post Author: tucollegian

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