Majority of sexual assaults on campus are in student housing

By Kayli Plotner, @kayplot

More than three out of four sexual assaults that take place on SIU property happen in the same rooms students sleep at night. 

Sixty-two percent of sexual assault claims reported to SIU police occurred in East Campus housing, including Wall and Grand Apartments and University Hall, according to a review of reports made to campus police between 2010 and 2015. Sixteen percent were reported in West Campus housing, and 9 percent in non-housing locations, according to Freedom of Information Act request documents obtained by the Daily Egyptian. 

Lori Stettler, vice chancellor for student affairs, attributes that difference in numbers to population.

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“West Campus houses 1,200 students, where as East Campus houses over 2,300 students … if you add in Wall and Grand and U-Hall, you’re talking about over 3,000 students,” she said. “That’s about a 3-to-1 ratio, so that kind of does make sense.”

Clery Compliance Sgt. Chad Beights, who has been an SIU police officer for 11 years, said the majority of reports taken by his department are situations in which the victim and accused offender knew each other beforehand.

“We can do as much as we can to protect you when you’re out walking around, but once you have invited somebody back to your room, or you go into someone else’s room, I can’t protect you once that door closes,” he said. “When you are behind that closed door with that individual by yourself, you are the only one that can protect yourself.”

Reported sexual assaults on campus made to SIU police

Of the 45 assaults reported to campus police from 2010 to 2015, 55 percent occurred between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

“Our patrol officers see a lot of people get carried home, a lot of that is friends carrying each other home,” Beights said. “That doesn’t mean the night is going to end in an assault. But the level of incapacitation, and the ability to bring yourself home is diminished quite a bit on the weekends.”

The SIU Student Conduct Code section 1.7.14 states: “To give consent, a person must be awake, of legal age, and have the capacity to reasonably understand the nature of his/her actions. Consent cannot be given by an individual who is mentally or physically incapacitated through the effect of drugs, alcohol or other intoxicants or for any other reason.”

Beights said the majority of sexual assault claims are based on that consent aspect: if and when was it given, or when was it taken away.

“The only two people who know that are the people who are in the room,” he said.

MORE: SIU under U.S. Department of Education investigation for handling of sexual assault cases

Section 1.7.14 defines consent as “a clear, affirmative, unambiguous and freely given agreement to engage in a specific sexual activity. Consent is demonstrated verbally or through actions that clearly indicate a willingness to engage in the specific sexual activity.”

With 80 percent of assaults reported to campus police taking place in University Housing, Beights said his department has noticed that students are more likely to report a sexual assault to a resident assistant rather than go straight to the police.

“You are more apt to tell somebody you trust,” he said.

Reported sexual assaults by SIU students to Carbondale police

Campus housing Residence Assistants are deemed by Title IX as a Campus Security Authority. CSAs are defined as a mandated reporter for the university or any specific person who has direct relations with students.

Because of this, Stettler said SIU housing staff undergoes intensive training.

“The full-time housing staff all start training around the first Monday of August,” she said. “The RAs come in two weeks before school starts and they spend a lot of time training on everything from how to deal with a sexual assault to safety and security.”

MORE: Basketball player’s sexual assault case prompted change in policy | Victim’s choice leading reason for dropped sexual assault claims

SIU requires all non-CSA university employees to undergo Title IX training.

“We have been told that we are top, when it comes to our training and education,” Beights said. “We train even our student workers … there is so much education and training, and more awareness, and we’re getting a lot more reports about these things because the issue is front and center.”

Kayli Plotner can be reached at 618-536-3325 or [email protected].

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