Crow implements task force to combat sexual assault on campus

Amid the discussion of class schedules and overpriced textbooks, sexual assault on campus, a topic which was once taboo in daily conversation, has received a lot of media attention in recent months.

Photography senior Cassie Ramirez said it isn’t surprising to her that sexual assault would be a problem at ASU.

“It’s never going to stop completely,” she said. “There is always going to be those few people who slip through the cracks but that’s true with anything.”

According to the American College Health Association, five percent of women on college campuses experience rape or attempted rape every year.

Women and gender studies junior Stephanie Meadows said she has heard stories about sexual assault on campus.

“I think it’s always a problem for both men and women,” she said. “I don’t know what measures need to be taken, but they need to be more drastic.”

ASU is implementing a new system with the purpose of combatting sexual assault. Plans for this initiative will involve changes in university policies, awareness efforts and training programs.

A task force comprised of students, faculty, staff and members of the ASU police department will band together to combat this problem as well as provide support for victims of sexual assault. This semester, more than 4,000 students are participating in these new programs to raise awareness and education.

The task force will be co-chaired by Marlene Tromp, vice provost and dean of the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, and Jennifer Hightower, deputy vice president for student services.

Hightower said as co-chairs, they will be working with other task force members in assessing efforts regarding sexual violence awareness and prevention.

“The task force will seek input broadly from students, faculty, administrators, law enforcement and subject matter experts,” she said.

Hightower said sexual violence is a prevalent issue on college campuses across the country.

“This is an issue that ASU takes very seriously,” she said. “We already have in place a robust set of policies and programs designed to raise awareness, promote prevention, and provide support to any member of the ASU community who suffers sexual violence.”

The task force will be reviewing current policies and practices, strengthen education and awareness efforts, enhance existing and forge new partnerships with support groups and agencies.

“The goal is to ensure that our current policies, practices, programs and support services foster an environment in which all community members have the opportunity to thrive,” Hightower said. “This year, we dramatically increased the level of peer-to-peer education and advocacy designed to prevent sexual assault on campus.”

All ASU students will be required to complete Consent and Respect, an online course meant to educate students on sexual violence and its impact on victims. The course will also provide strategies on how to prevent sexual violence.

Exploratory behavior sciences freshman Natalie Piper said she thinks sexual assault prevention is getting better, because the problem itself is getting more recognition.

“This isn’t just a problem on campus; it’s a national problem,” she said.

In an e-mail sent out to students, President Michael Crow said, “Arizona State University is committed to combating this complex social problem and strives to foster a positive learning, working and living environment that promotes every individual’s ability to participate fully in the ASU experience without fear of sexual violence, or even sexual harassment.”

Although many recognize that sexual assault is a problem that needs to be addressed, there are a lot of gray areas that need to be taken into account.

Photography sophomore Alan Clark said that the issue is not black and white.

“I’ve seen a lot of different things and a lot of different viewpoints,” he said. “Men can also be raped by women.”

Clark’s best friend was a victim of sexual assault by a woman.

“He didn’t fight back because he was afraid that the assault would be turned around on him,” Clark said. “There is a misconception that women can’t rape men.”

The topic of sexual violence and assault is no longer something that will be brushed under the table. This comprehensive social problem is finally being talked about.

Graphic design freshman Sierra Randall said the first step in solving the problem is pointing out that something is wrong.

“People need to know the consequences will be severe,” she said. “There needs to be a consensus on what’s right and wrong.”

Reach the reporter at kgrega@asu.edu or follow her on twitter @KelcieGrega