SIU fights to prevent sexual assault

This upcoming fall semester, the university is making changes to ensure the safety of its students and campus.

The reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act requires colleges to train all new students, faculty and staff in recognizing, reporting and preventing sexual assault. SIU has fulfilled the requirement by implementing new procedures to better acquaint the students and faculty with sexual assault response.

Before students even begin classes, they will have already gone through an extensive online awareness program known as Haven, an online sexual assault module.

Chad Trisler, director of student rights and responsibilities, said past students have already taken the course during the third week of their freshmen year. The program is being moved up to better prepare the students before they begin classes.

“It gives everyone some baseline information on how to be in a respectful relationship, keep safe on campus, and look out for other students,” Trisler said. “It will ensure that everyone has a consistent knowledge base on how to stay safe and help other people out.”

Once on campus, the student will be further trained in a classroom setting. The additional requirement is called Saluki Steps. The primary goal of the one-hour class is to teach students to be good bystanders and ways to intervene when someone is being taken advantage of.

All employees will go through training the first week of the fall semester as well. They will be informed on how to help someone who has been a victim and how to keep the spaces they are in control of safe.

“It’s all about making sure that SIU is the best possible environment for our students to focus on education,” Trisler said. “People shouldn’t have to worry about being a victim of one of these crimes.”

Lieutenant Ryan House, administrative services commander of SIU Department of Public Safety, said the training and awareness would be no small task.

“Often, faculty and staff are the first ones notified of a sexual assault, so this provides them with the reporting procedures and resources available,” House said. “The downside is the logistical concerns with training such a large number in such a short time frame.”

The university averages 3,500 incoming freshmen each year and 7,000 total employees. Every single one of the approximately 10,500 people will have to go through the training process.

Megan Jones-Williams, project coordinator of rape crisis services at the Women’s Center, said she supports the new requirements. She said she believes they will help lower the rate of sexual assault and not only will it be beneficial to the university, but to the community as a whole.

“What happens at SIU affects others in the community, so we see this as a great initiative,” Williams said. “SIU is the leader in the area, so often times when they do something other educational venues follow suit.”

She said the Women’s Center has been encouraging more extensive steps in sexual assault prevention. She said the center believes the university has been compliant with existing laws in recent years, but of the prevalence of sexual assault in the community, there could always be more done.

“Unfortunately sexual assault is common here,” Williams said. “It is difficult to say the exact statistics, but we are confident that SIU is no different than any of the other universities in the country where one in four college women is a victim.”

Incoming students will receive an email Aug. 1 with more information about the training process and a link to the online awareness program.

“It’s a big university commitment to make sure we are keeping SIU safe, so it is definitely a lot of energy and effort,” Trisler said. “We really appreciate the staff and students taking time out of a busy part of the year to make this a priority.”

Storey Mayer can be reached at smayer@dailyegyptian.com or 536-3311 ext. 254

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