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Study reveals students lack of faith in university approach to sexual assault

The study from Chegg found that less than half of students believe their school's administration adequately handle cases

No Evidence sexual assult cases.jpg

"Students are growing more skeptical about the way universities handle sexual assault cases." Illustration published on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018.

Chegg's 2018 State of the Student study revealed that only 42 percent of students are confident in their school's approach to addressing sexual assault cases. 

Jasmine Lester, an ASU alumna and the founder of Sun Devils Against Sexual Assault, said she was not surprised by these statistics.

“It’s not surprising that almost half of students don’t believe their colleges adequately address sexual assault, considering more than 200 colleges have faced federal investigation because students have filed complaints about mishandling sexual assault,” she said.

As of Sept. 28, ASU is one of the post-secondary schools with sexual violence cases that are currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education. ASU has three cases still open from 2012.

"ASU is dedicated to the well-being of sexual assault survivors," Senior Associate Dean of Students Kendra Hunter said. "The University provides a variety of support resources to all students.”

ASU's student code of conduct goes into detail about how the University handles allegations of sexual misconduct.

"ASU takes every report that comes to the Dean of Students office and/or Student Rights and Responsibilities seriously," Hunter said.  "As such, once a report is filed with SSR, the office will begin a review of the report and activate an investigation, if warranted, into the reported behavior.”

Selene Hinojosa, a junior studying social work, reported to ASU in spring 2018 that she had been assaulted on campus by a male ASU student in December 2017, after her friends urged her to report the incident.

"I didn't want to (report it) – I felt humiliated and disgusted by the whole situation," Hinojosa said. "What influenced my decision to report this was the fear of anyone else having to go through what I did. I was terrified of him being able to hurt somebody else. I was terrified of any other woman having to feel the guilt and shame that I felt when I had to talk about what happened."

According to a research report from the U.S. Department of Justice, almost 95 percent of sexual assaults that take place on college campuses go unreported.

In the 2007 Campus Sexual Assault Study, the DOJ listed several reasons why sexual assault survivors don’t report their assaults: they didn't have proof the incident occurred, they didn’t know how to report the incident, they feared retaliation by their assailant or they were uncertain that authorities would consider the incident serious enough, among other reasons.

Hinojosa said that originally after reporting to ASU, the University was very interactive with her, removing her from her original dorm room to prevent further interaction with her assailant. However, as time went on, Hinojosa said that ASU's approach to handling her case made her feel hopeless.

"I constantly would check in for updates and my answer was always the same," she said. "I was told that other reports were still being taken care of and that my report would be finished as soon as they could."

The State Press has confirmed these emails occurred between Hinojosa and ASU officials handling the case.

"Time after time, I began to feel hopeless," she said. "I felt like I didn't matter and that my case wasn't important enough as it had been going on for so long and still is as of October 2018.”

Hinojosa said she believes the way ASU prioritizes reported incidents needs to change, and the length of time it has taken the University to finish her own report is inexcusable. 

“The one reason I have not given up on this whole process is because I deserve justice just like every other woman and any other individual that has gone through sexual assault,” Hinojosa said.

According to Hunter, the university strongly encourages survivors to report incidents of sexual violence, harassment, stalking and relationship violence.

She said some of ASU's reporting options include filing a criminal report with the ASU Police Department, filing an incident report with the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, filing an incident report with the Office of Equity and Inclusion and reporting an incident by calling the ASU Hotline.

ASU has groups on campus including the Sun Devil Support Network and the Sun Devil Movement for Violence Prevention to provide support for survivors and facilitate the development of a safer campus environment.

A full list of students' reporting, support and assistance options can be found here.

"I will no longer silence myself with fear," Hinojosa said. "I do this for all the people who do not have a choice and a voice to speak up."

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