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Student reports sexual assault on campus

By Libby Mueller, Senior Staff Writer

A female student recently reported to the Miami University Police Department (MUPD) she was sexually assaulted in her residence hall room in Southeast Quad. The male attacker was someone she knew.

Lieutenant Ben Spilman of MUPD said he is not at liberty to provide specifics other than that the incident occurred Sunday, Sept. 21, around 2:30 a.m.

"The most we can say is we have some concerns about issues of consent and whether there was consent involved," Spilman said.

Consent is a clearly stated, positive and mutual agreement between two people to engage in sexual activity. Spilman said in this particular case, he could not say if alcohol was involved. However, he said in general, students should be aware that alcohol can lower inhibitions and impair a person's ability to send clear messages about what he or she wants or does not want to do with a partner.

Spilman also said the victim is not pressing charges at this time.

"It is the victim's wishes to not have the police investigate," Spilman said. "The police are taking as much of a role in this as the victim wants, but we need to make people aware even if the victim doesn't want a police investigation."

Spilman said when an assault occurs, MUPD's process begins with the victim.

"The first concern is for the victim," Spilman said. "We make sure the victim gets the support they need so that means following their wishes, whether they want to be involved in the prosecution of the case or not, or sending it through the student judicial process (Office of Ethics and Student Conflict Resolution). But we also want to make sure that the community at large is aware that these kinds of things might happen so they can take appropriate precautions."

Becca Getson is the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator and Deputy Title IX Coordinator for incidents involving sexual assault. Title IX of the 1972 amendments to the Higher Education Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities, and also gives protection for those who have been sexually assaulted or harassed. Title IX Coordinators focus on notification, education and advising on Title IX protocol.

Getson said the university responds in multiple ways to sexual assault reports.

"Crime alerts is one; we work with MUPD to release that and it goes out to all members of the MU community," Getson said. "As soon as we receive the report, as the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, I will reach out within 24 hours to see what resources can be given to the survivor to recover and let them know what the options and services are for them."

These options and services range from methods of reporting to support, Getson said.

"There are several options in terms of reporting: criminal, university, investigation, things of that nature," Getson said. "We want to make sure they're receiving healthcare or counseling or advocacy services they might need."

According to Getson, cases like this ones involve people with whom the victim is acquainted.

"It's actually the case for most sexual assaults that the survivor will know who the accused is in some fashion," Getson said. "It could be an ex-partner, it could be someone they had dated or had been seeing or it could be an acquaintance or friend. National and statewide statistics tell us that about 90 percent of survivors actually know the perpetrator."

Clawson Hall Resident Assistant (RA) Rita Kou said she thinks when incidents like sexual assault, harassment or underage drinking occur, because they often involve people whom the victims or participants know, they may be afraid to report them. Kou said students should understand that RAs are there to help them.

"They should feel totally safe. Part of our job is to help them when they need us and anything they share with an RA can be kept confidential," Kou said.

When it comes to sexual assault cases, Kou said RAs can help the victim pursue any avenue of action she or he might want.

"I have heard of cases where students were drinking and want to hide that from the RAs because they're worried about it or they [victims of sexual assault] know that person who did it and they don't want to get that person in trouble, but the truth is, we don't have to get them in trouble if they don't want that, " Kou said. "We can contact the counseling center or find resources they need."

Whether they are going out with friends or strangers, it is important for MU students to be aware of the environment, stay safe and know what constitutes consent.

"We have a lot of prevention programming education that is trying to help students be aware of sexual assault and what consent is. We want to try to encourage safe and healthy environments," Getson said. "It's really important to look out for each other."

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