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Breaking the silence

Reporting sexual assault on Concordia’s campus

If you were to find your car missing from the parking lot one morning, would you report it stolen? If you were the victim of a mugging in the atrium, would you report the incident to the police?

Of course you would. So why do approximately 95 percent of U.S. campus rapes go unreported?

“Reporting is terrifying,” Sophomore Rachel McCloud said. “And not knowing where to go from there is even more scary.”

McCloud was the victim of a sexual assault a year and a half ago, shortly before joining Concordia’s community. She knows firsthand the fear that comes with reporting this type of crime and the process of receiving help after an assault. McCloud said the reporting process and the subsequent assistance for victims should be known by every student at Concordia.

Concordia offers a number of resources for students who have been a victim of any type of sexual harassment or assault – this includes but is not limited to verbal abuse of a sexual nature, unwelcome advances, cyber harassment of a sexual nature, fondling and rape, according to Concordia’s Sexual Misconduct Policy.

Sophomore resident assistant Elle Montgomery encourages students to report instances of sexual misconduct to their RAs, who train several days in the fall exclusively on assault and how it should be handled.

“RAs stress that they are a resource, whether that be for academic, personal or emergency reasons,” Montgomery said. “People should be aware the RAs are here to help and not get you in trouble.”

Montgomery also said RAs are required to report incidents of sexual misconduct to hall directors. Other mandated reporters include coaches, faculty members and public safety staff.

Information from mandated reporters about sexual misconduct is passed along to Sue Oatey, vice president and dean of student affairs, or Peggy Torrance, director of human resources. The two collaborate on what measures need to be taken to assist the victim, but will never force a victim to go forth with the complaint.

Oatey said that if a victim proves uncomfortable with notifying the police or pressing charges, they will never be required to. If a severe case occurs in which Oatey or Torrance determines that other students at the college are at risk, they may move forward with complaint, filing the college as the complainant.

For example, if a student reported a rape where evidence showed that it could be a repeated incident, the college would collect information and facts and then move forward with the complaint because the attacker endangered other students at the institution.

Oatey said this only happens in severe instances, and large measures are taken so the victim’s well-being is not compromised and his or her identity remains private.

Oatey gave an example: if a student reported a rape in which the attacker was unknown, the college would send out a timely notice to other students on campus. Again, the name of the victim would not be revealed and measures would be taken to protect the safety and comfort of the victim, according to Oatey.

“Our first concern is always the well-being of the student,” Oatey said.

In the majority of cases, where other students and the community are not in danger, regardless of whether a victim chooses to move forward with a complaint or not, Oatey contacts the students to provide them with resources and options that they may need.

“[The victim] does not have to file a complaint or share information,” Oatey said. “We will always reach out.”

Oatey helps victims get into contact with medical resources, counselors or pastors if they wish to do so. She also helps make accommodations if the victim wants an escort around campus, to change residence halls, adjust work or class schedules or contact the police to file a report.

“It is always a question of how can we help? What can we do?” Oatey said.

As for reporting to police or moving forward with a complaint, the victim determines what happens next.

“[Reporting] is very delicate with victims of sexual assault,” McCloud said. “Telling anyone is terrifying and telling someone like a mandated reporter . . . it’s a huge barrier to overcome. One that they may or may not be emotionally prepared for.”

For victims who do not want to speak with mandated reporters or file a complaint, on-campus confidential sources are available to them. These sources include counselors, the nurses in the Kjos Health Center and pastor Elizabeth McHan, according to Oatey.

Victims can also call the Rape & Abuse Crisis Center if they prefer an off-campus confidential source. Oatey is available to assist them in contacting off-campus counselors.

For victims uncomfortable with seeking help from officials or strangers, McCloud suggests telling their story to someone they trust.

“Reaching out to peers is a great first step,” McCloud said. “Then, at least someone else knows what happened.”

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