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Task force: U. can better address sexual assault

Klawunn: All requests 'being worked on'

As she brought her sexual assault case to a University non-academic disciplinary hearing, Kezia Spence '08 said she realized the process to hold the accused responsible would be more difficult than she originally thought. "I knew I would have to fight against the Brown system to have my story heard, which is not what I expected" Spence said in "Hush," a documentary made by Kristin Jordan '09 and Marta daSilva '09.

The film uses interviews with three students who were victims of sexual assault to highlight their difficulty navigating Brown's policies after their assaults. As members of the student group Sexual Assault Task Force, Jordan and daSilva now use the documentary to support the task force's recommendations, which include hiring a full-time resource staffer to more adequately handle sexual assault cases and maintaining more accurate statistics concerning occurrences of the crime.

The task force has made some progress on their recommendations. Task force members were told in a March meeting with Director of Health Education Frances Mantak that the University has decided to hire a full-time resource staffer for issues of sexual misconduct, Jordan said.

Dean for Student Life and Associate Vice President of Campus Life Margaret Klawunn said the policies currently in place are supported by the administration. The misconduct policy condemns "nonconsensual physical contact of a sexual nature" and stresses that the use of drugs or alcohol in such a situation is considered "an exacerbating rather than a mitigating circumstance."

The policy further states the "sanctions that can be imposed through a University Disciplinary Council or administrative hearing (which) include reprimand, probation, deferred suspension, suspension, or expulsion."

Klawunn said that this spring, the administration will review the judicial system, a process which takes place every five years.

The administration has already met some of the task force's requests - most notably, the recent decision to hire a full-time resource staffer and a decision to start a peer education program, Klawunn said.

The task force has met with President Ruth Simmons - from whom they said they received a favorable response - as well as with deans and other members of the administration to voice their concerns.

"Everything the task force has asked for is being worked on," Klawunn said.

The goals of the task force which have not yet been realized include sexual assault sensitivity training for Department of Public Safety officers and a resource center in Faunce House, according to materials provided by the task force.

Until the recently approved sexual assault staff position is filled, the University will continue to rely on an advocate system to help victims navigate the disciplinary procedures and available resources.

In this system, a student who has reported an assault is assigned an advocate who can help direct him or her to different resources on campus.

Gail Cohee, the director of the Sarah Doyle Women's Center who also serves as an advocate, said most students with whom she works get help from Psychological Services and are able to speak with deans. "Most students (who come to me) find support."

Jordan said the task force was created in response to DPS initially misreporting the number of sexual assaults that occurred on campus in 2005. DPS later amended their report, which originally said no assaults had occurred that year when four actually had taken place.

Like all institutions that participate in federal student financial aid programs, Brown is required by the Jeanne Clery Act to provide accurate crime statistics to all current and prospective students and employees, to maintain a crime log and to publish an annual security report.

There were four forcible sex offenses in 2006, four in 2005 and three in 2004, according to the 2007 crime report released by DPS.

In each year, at least half of the offenses were committed in a residence hall, according to the report.

Although the University follows federal statutes, perpetrators of sexual assault on campus are afforded more privacy than in the criminal justice system.

In making "Hush," Jordan and daSilva were not allowed to use the names of the attackers whom their interviewees described.

"It's a violation of that student's confidentiality," Klawunn said.

"Just like we wouldn't reveal grades to another student, we wouldn't name another student in a judicial case," she said. "When students go through the judicial system, they are both asked to preserve confidentiality."

In addition to their meetings and proposals to the Office of Campus Life, the Sexual Assault Task Force is working with the Undergraduate Council of Students to craft a resolution that would work towards addressing the issue of rape on campus.

The resolution may come to a vote in the last weeks of the academic year since UCS is beginning to focus on elections for the upcoming year, said Rakim Brooks '09, UCS's academic and administrative affairs chair.

Brooks has been working with Jordan to publicize her film and with the task force to promote awareness of its causes. He said he supports the work of the task force, but that their proposals could be difficult to realize.

"There are a few difficulties with major things they've asked for," Brooks said, such as obtaining a resource center in Faunce.

"Ultimately, it's a touchy issue," he said. "I think it's something the campus needs to consider more rigorously. But it's like looking into a mirror and critiquing where you've gone terribly wrong," he said.

"What does it mean to admit that something like this goes on even here?" he asked.



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