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Auburn University holds town hall on preventing, reporting sexual assaults

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 11:06 PM CDT
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AUBURN, Ala. (WSFA) - Students at Auburn University were able to voice their concerns to school officials at a town hall Wednesday following a recent string of sexual assault cases on campus.

Three separate incidents were reported in one week, including two alleged rapes.

The recent reports have sparked protests and outrage among some students.

Student Affairs hosted the town hall inside the Student Activities Center Auditorium to discuss preventing and reporting sexual assault on campus.

In addition to Student Affairs, representatives from Campus Safety and Security, the Auburn Police Division, Student Government Association, Health Promotion and Wellness and Title IX were in attendance.

School officials took to the stage to explain in detail to students how the university handles sexual assault claims and why it is important for students to reach out if they need help.

Auburn University deputy Title IX coordinator Katherine Weathers said since August 2020, there have been 64 reports of sexual assault on campus and every single one has been investigated.

“Every time we get a report, we respond to that report,” Weathers said.

Though all survivors are encouraged to report the assault, not all do.

“We reached out to 62 of the victims and we had 18 respond to us, and I think we would like to see that number increase,” Weathers said.

It’s always the survivor’s choice whether or not to report a crime, but Auburn police said it’s difficult for them to investigate unless victims come forward.

“The fact of the matter is these are instances that need to be looked into, and that the person that has undergone these incidents, they need help, and there’s a ton of resources up here. In order to do that, someone up here needs to be notified,” Auburn Police Division Assistant Chief Clarence Stewart said, pointing to the panel of speakers.

The town hall also gave several students the chance to directly voice their concerns to school officials, and receive immediate feedback.

Moving forward, school officials said the focus should shift to sexual assault prevention and the important role friends and bystanders play in preventing sexual assault. The panel agreed that from this point on it needs to be a community effort.

Auburn University issued the following statement following the three most recent incidents of sexual assault:

“The creation and maintenance of a safe environment for our students will always be the highest priority for Auburn. The three cases reported this week – one in a residence hall, one on a campus sidewalk and one in a fraternity house – have only intensified our commitment. Auburn prohibits sexual harassment and power-based personal violence. We take action to prevent it through a variety of sexual assault awareness and bystander intervention programming, as well as safety programs and resources.

When a crime is officially reported by a member of our campus community, the University is able to take even more aggressive steps to help crime victims and hold those responsible accountable. In the current situation, the victims of the three recent incidents chose not to file police reports or formal complaints with the University or local police, and we support their right to do so.

Auburn University issues Clery-required campus safety notices regarding crime on or near the university’s campus when we become aware of such activity, as we did with these three cases. We continuously provide helpful services and resources to our campus community impacted by such issues.

Our safety program includes the following:

  • Auburn Police Division University Precinct officers who patrol the campus 24 hours a day.
  • Auburn employed and contracted security officers after hours.
  • Nearly 200 blue light emergency phones that dial directly to 911.
  • 24-hour on-campus transportation.
  • An extensive security camera system.
  • A free Auburn Safety app, which includes features such as “Friend Walk,” ability to submit a tip, “How to Respond guide” and sexual violence resources.
  • Safe Harbor, a confidential resource, is a university service that supports those experiencing personal violence, including dating/domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking/harassment. A 24/7 crisis phone number (334-844-7233) is available for those seeking help.

Below is a list of information and resources sent to student alongside an alert of a sexual assault on campus:

  • Rape is against the law and is a felony.
  • It is important for everyone involved in a sexual act to give consent to all aspects of the act. Consent is an affirmative, knowing and voluntary decision, clearly communicated through words or actions, and applies to all aspects of the act. Consent granted for one act does not mean consent for another.
  • Rape is not a crime of sexual desire. It is a crime of hostility and violence toward the victim/survivor. People often engage in victim blaming as a way to preserve the false belief that they will be safe from sexual assault “if only” they do not do what the victim did. However, rape is never the victim/survivor’s fault. Only the perpetrator chooses to commit sexual assault.
  • It is a myth that it can’t happen to you. Sexual assault can happen to anyone, regardless of age, race, class, religion, occupation, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, educational background, or physical description.

If you are a victim/survivor of sexual assault next steps are your choice. You are encouraged to:

  • Preserve evidence. Do not shower or change your clothing.
  • Dial 911 for emergency assistance or immediately go to the nearest hospital to get medical care and request a sexual assault forensic exam (“rape kit”).
  • Consider reporting it. Notification options include:
  • Dial 911 or 334-501-3100 to reach the Auburn Police Division. The police are the only entity that can investigate a sexual assault for the means of criminal prosecution. It is important for them to gather evidence as soon as possible.
  • Dial 334-844-4794 to report the incident to the Auburn University title IX coordinator. The title IX office receives official complaints of violations of the university’s title IX sexual harassment policy.

Rape kits can be collected at the following locations in Auburn:

  • East Alabama Medical Center Freestanding Emergency Department, 900 Camp Auburn Rd., Auburn, AL 36832 (24/7)
  • AU Medical Clinic, 400 Lem Morrison Dr., Auburn, AL 36849 (8 a.m.-2 p.m., Monday-Friday)
  • A rape kit can generally be collected up to 72 hours after a sexual assault.
  • Victims/survivors can have a rape kit collected without filing a police report

Sexual assault survivor advocates on and off campus (24 hours a day)

  • Safe Harbor (on campus) – 334-844-7233 or safeharbor@auburn.edu
  • Rape Counselors of East Alabama (community) – 334-705-0510

Resources for survivors: //www.auburn.edu/titleix

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