One out of 4 undergraduate women will be sexually assaulted before they graduate, according to a 2010 Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) study. The study also found that 1 in every 6 American women will be sexually assaulted at some point during their lives.
Few reports of sex crimes on college campuses show up in media reports, however, and even fewer are prosecuted by the law. Despite the high number of women who are sexually assaulted while in college, studies estimate that 60 percent of rape and sexual assault cases are never reported to police or campus authorities. Even more alarming is the fact that of those sex crimes that are reported, RAINN has shown that there is only a 50.8 percent chance that an arrest will be made.
DePaul has a “no gray-area” policy regarding sexual assault, meaning sex that involves any amount of coercion, intimidation, force or anything that renders a victim unable to give consent is considered sexual assault, according to the Office of Sexual Violence Support Services.
However, because of the rising statistics, DePaul and other Chicagoland universities have recognized that something more needs to be done on campus to protect the students. With the help of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, DePaul and other universities, including UIC and Northwestern, have built the Chicagoland Consortium for Safety on College Campuses, which is focused on getting students to report sex crimes and making sure the crimes are prosecuted.
“The goal of the State’s Attorney’s Office is to assist in the education of the entire campus body on the prevention of sex offenses,” said Jennifer Gonzalez, chief of the State’s Attorney’s Sex Crimes Division. “And where that is not possible, to increase the reporting of such cases to allow us the opportunity to prosecute those individuals who have violated the law and hold them accountable for their actions.”
Aside from teaming up with the State’s Attorney’s Office, DePaul offers a number of resources for students with regard to education and prevention of sexual violence.
While officers at DePaul’s Public Safety office encourage all students to report crimes of sexual assault to the Chicago Police Department, not all victims choose to do so and sometimes turn to Public Safety first. In this event, the Public Safety office has a female officer who is available and trained “to provide a secure and sensitive environment to gather information from victims and counsel them to report crimes to the Chicago Police,” John Holden of DePaul’s Office of Public Relations said.
Student Affairs also works with Public Safety to offer different awareness programs “including a quarterly CAPS (Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy) session with Chicago Police Department,” Holden said.
Holden also discussed IMPACT, which is offered to students quarterly and provides self-defense tactics, shows students different ways to recognize possible attacks and teaches them how to be more aware of their surroundings. DePaul’s Student Health Advocates (SHA), a student-run organization, also helps raise awareness about sex-related topics, including sex crimes with workshops and demonstrations. Holden estimates that each month school is in session, between one and two dozen students attend sexual violence workshops and programs.
Despite the resources that are available across DePaul’s campuses, some feel that not enough is being done to educate students or give them support if they become a victim.
“As a student, I feel that DePaul’s sexual assault and harassment education is fairly limited. During orientation, freshmen receive little information on sexual assault and the resources that are available to them on campus,” said Erin Freund, president of DePaul’s Student Health Advocates. “But DePaul is in the process of creating the Sexual Health and Violence Prevention office which will consist of one full time employee. While I think this is a step in the right direction, the university still has a long way to go in terms of providing enough sex education resources to its students.”
While resources designed for the education and prevention of sexual violence give students some of the tools they need to be safer, Gonzalez reminds victims that reporting sex crimes are essential.
“If you have been a victim, tell someone—the sooner the better. Get law enforcement involved as soon as possible and go to the hospital,” Gonzalez said. “This is the age of CSI. Give us the chance to collect all the evidence we can, and time is of the essence with this kind of evidence. We want to help you, but you have to give us the chance to help.”
By Tabitha Hurley and Ashley Huntington