COCC expecting sexual assault reports rise after awareness month

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A sexual assault hasn’t occurred on campus since 2012, but COCC is working to make sure one doesn’t happen.

Half of women rape victims don’t acknowledge what happened to them was rape. Even though researchers have found through interviews and investigation that what happened to them was rape, many refuse to believe it, according to Taran Smith, director of Student Activities at Central Oregon Community College.

Much of this is due to victim blaming, according to Smith.

“Somehow the girl was asking for it,” Smith said. “‘you were wearing this, you were drinking.’ Somehow they are participant in the process.”

April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, and COCC faculty, staff and campus public safety have been working together to break down these mindsets and prevent sexual assault from happening on campus.

Just say yes?

In the past five years, there have been three reported sexual assaults at COCC, according to Jim Bennett, campus public safety coordinator. But that’s only reported incidents of a crime that is largely underreported.

Dianne Capozzola, assistant director of Human Resources and Title-9 officer at COCC, believes reports could increase after this month.

“We could expect that as more people get trained, we’ll have more people come forward,” Capozzola said.

This would be exactly what Campus Public Safety is looking for, according to Bennett.

“This is a serious issue for us,” Bennett said. “What it comes down to is if it’s not brought to the forefront, it allows people to continue these behaviors.”

Smith believes that lack of reporting isn’t the only issue but that going back to the mindset before the incident is the key to fixing the problem.

Even though not every incident has a male as perpetrator and a female as victim, statistically those are the highest. The issue lies in the male “psyche,”according to Smith.

“We’re trained to say no, but why aren’t we trained to say yes?” Smith said.

Growing up, males are trained to start off thinking a female wants to engage in sex and then looking for a sign to disprove that. Instead, Smith believes, males and females should both be trained to look for signs of mutual consent.

The times when women are most vulnerable in college tend to be freshman year before Christmas break, Smith said. This is when college freshmen arrive and get inducted into the social scene: They’re young, new and suddenly around upperclassmen.

Then there’s the problem of alcohol. Smith believes as a society, we seem to have a belief that if both parties were drunk, no crime took place.

“Alcohol becomes an excuse: ‘They were both drunk, they both didn’t know what happened,’” Smith said. “But what if we took that logic to a car crash? We can’t say that alcohol’s to blame. … For some reason, alcohol blurs the line.”

Prevention, response, and post-incident

The events COCC has organized during Sexual Assault Awareness Month follow the three components of an incident: Prevention, response, and post-incident.

Prevention was addressed at a campus conversation on sexual assault on April 17. Smith, Bennett and Capozzola discussed with participating students how sexual assault could not only harm students physically and psychologically, but how it could demotivate their school experience and wreak havoc on their academics.

Response — what to do in a sexual assault situation — will be addressed on April 30 at a Krav Maga workshop put on by Campus Public Safety. Krav Maga is a “reflexive” self defense system that can help victims against offenders, Bennett said.

But if an incident cannot be prevented, the post-incident is very important, Bennett said. Helping victims feel supported will not only aid them, but help others step forward. Saving Grace’s Take Back the Night event in the Old Mill on April 25 was an event supporting survivors of sexual assault.

Bennett said everyone needs to come to these events because though statistically, male-against-female is the most common type of sexual assault, female-against-male, female-against-female and male-against-male happen as well.

What happens when you report sexual assault?

When sexual assault on campus is reported, Campus Public Safety works closely with Capozzola, who makes sure they are following federal statutes regarding sexual assault. Campus Public Safety can issue no-contact orders on individuals, but the incident has to be turned over to Gordon Price at Student Life to make the decision on whether or not the perpetrator can continue going to school.

If you need to report a sexual assault on campus, contact Campus Public Safety at (541) 383-7252.

Scott Greenstone | The Broadside
(Contact: sgreenstone@cocc.edu)

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