Students take steps to stop sexual assault

Students take steps to stop sexual assault

By Jordan Duncan

The first person walked home by a student-led group formed to stop sexual assaults resulted in a call to the Department of Public Safety on Saturday.

An unidentified woman was told by her friends to go with the group at about 1 a.m. Kari Hammond, a junior from Marion studying psychology, is in the group and carried her most of the way.

Once the group walked to Neely Hall, the woman realized she could not enter the residence without her student ID card. After she bypassed the lobby and attempted to get in an elevator, she began screaming racial slurs and cursing before getting in an altercation with a resident assistant. The RA could not comment.

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Hammond said the woman grabbed an RA by the throat in the lobby of the hall, prompting staff to call DPS. Hammond said she intervened because she was concerned for the safety of the others in the building.

“I also didn’t want the girl to hurt herself, or get on the elevator successfully and get onto another floor and potentially hurt somebody upstairs,” she said.

The night began with Brandon tying blue armbands onto participants to signify who was a member of the group walking students home.

The students met outside Sam’s Café at 11 p.m. Saturday to hold signs advocating to stop sexual assault and advertise a free walk home for anyone in need. The students consisted of six volunteers representing different organizations on campus.

Joshua-Kyle Brandon, one of the Undergraduate Student Government senators who founded the group, said it started Oct. 25 without USG resources because someone needed to act on the issue.

“It’s one thing to stand up and say words,” said Brandon, a sophomore from Buffalo Grove studying psychology. “It’s nothing unless you stand up and take action.”

Sean Douglas, of the Registered Student Organization Active Minds, said he joined the group, which does not have an official name, because the issue has affected his life and he has stopped sexual assaults before.

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“It’s one of the most despicable things mankind could ever do to each other, and this is my way of saying ‘I’m not okay with it,'” said Douglas, a junior from Chicago studying biomedical science.

Dakota Justice, one of three representatives from Alpha Sigma Phi, said people needed to step up and be better members of campus and the community.

“Even a small thing as walking a person home could make a huge difference in someone’s life,” said Justice, a junior from Chicago studying anthropology.

Brandon said he would seek an official status for the group with the university in coming semesters.

“Unless we start taking action immediately, no change is going to be seen,” he said. “We cannot wait for official status. We cannot wait for an organization to develop over time.”

Brandon said he encourages any organizations or individuals to join.

“I need men and women to stand up and show they are ready to take a stand, and make a difference in their own lives and their own homes, and be a support for each other to get through these atrocities that are happening to our community,” Brandon said.

USG President Cameron Shulak said he supports student-led efforts to take action against sexual assault.

“If students want to see change, the most efficient way to go about it is to do it themselves,” said Shulak, a senior from Louisville, Ky., studying aviation. “There’s powers that be, the administration and the law enforcement that can assist them, but any response from them isn’t going to be nearly as effective as a student-led response.”

He said SIU does not have an inherently unsafe campus.

“Obviously, this year, there have been some things that have happened that have sort of shifted that perception,” Shulak said “It’s On Us,” the USG-led sexual assault task force, is working to produce tangible results on the crimes, he said.

Brandon said volunteers handled the situation well and finished the goal of getting someone home safe.

“We don’t know what will happen to her after, with housing, but we do know what didn’t happen to her,” he said.

Brandon said the first sign of a dangerous, liable situation would immediately prompt the group to call the police.

“It was a situation that wasn’t anticipated, it is a situation that we have learned from,” he said. “If you’re going to drop your intoxicated friend with us, we will call the police if they become a detriment to the volunteer group.”

Brandon said if the woman exhibited erratic behavior during the walk, they would have called for an ambulance, as it is not their responsibility to handle someone intoxicated.

“We are here no matter what the circumstance is, but we are not liable for personal responsibility,” he said.

After the incident, Brandon asked the group if anyone was uncomfortable continuing to escort. He said he wanted to ensure the volunteers’ safety and everyone agreed to continue for the rest the night.

Winslow Chou, co-owner and founder of El Greco, he supports the efforts of the group because he is concerned about violence on the Strip.

“It’s not going to necessarily stop these kinds of activities, I’m afraid,” said Chou, who said he is worried about dimmed lighting on Illinois Avenue and violent outbursts on the Strip. “It’ll probably just push it out to the fringes.”

Chou said he has helped people get out of bad situations at his business before. He said he helped one woman outside the building after her escort was pulled over and she couldn’t get home.

He said he does not want the Strip to be associated with violence.

“No one wants it associated with any of these things,” Chou said. “No one wants somebody to think ‘Wow, it’s 10:30, I’m too scared to go to El Greco.'”

The Carbondale Police Department was called eight times and could not be reached for comment.

The woman was cited for underage consumption of alcohol and no assault was reported, according to an email on Sunday by DPS Chief of Police Benjamin Newman.

Brandon said the group will continue the walks but urged women to join to make other women more comfortable with the group.

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