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UB faculty discuss campus sexual assault

University holds panel on what faculty should know about sexual assault

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If a sexual assault victim comes forward, the most important thing to do is believe them, said University Police Deputy Chief Joshua Sticht at Tuesday’s panel.

“If they make the decision to disclose something to you, believe that and don’t ask questions about how much they had to drink or how they were dressed,” Sticht said. “Listen to them…it’s all about being an active listener to that person.”

A UB Alert was emailed to students, faculty and staff on Monday that said a female was “roughed up and assaulted in the area of Core Road and the MFAC.” The email stated UPD is continuing to investigate the incident. The university is also on a federal sexual assault watchlist, along with 200 colleges nationwide, for allegedly mishandling a sexual assault case in May 2016.

Sticht was one of four speakers who presented on a panel called “Campus Sexual Assault: What Faculty Need to Know” in Davis Hall on Tuesday. The speakers discussed how faculty should handle sexual assault on campus. Approximately 30 faculty members were in attendance.

Other panelists included: Elizabeth Lidano, director of the Office of Judicial Affairs & Student Advocacy, Sharon Nolan Weiss, Title IX Coordinator and Director of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Anna Sotelo Peryea, Violence Prevention Coordinator. Teresa Miller, vice provost for Equity and Inclusion moderated the panel.

Each panelist gave an overview of the resources UB departments provide. Panelists also discussed sexual violence prevention initiatives and gave advice for how faculty should respond if students disclose that they have experienced sexual assault.

Engineering professor Johannes Nitsche thinks faculty should be well informed on how to handle a sexual assault.

“The university has a very capable infrastructure and truly dedicated people addressing this problem. It is important for faculty to be fully aware of this infrastructure and be able to call on it,” Nitsche said.

All university employees are encouraged to provide UPD with information if a student informs them of a sexual assault, Nolan-Weiss said. Employees may file an anonymous report to maintain the victim’s confidentiality.

“The idea of an anonymous report might not seem very useful, but anonymous reports have been very useful for us in real world cases in the past,” Sticht said.

Sticht encouraged faculty to inform students about crisis counseling for victims of sexual violence. Students can call University Police, who will connect them with an on-call counselor. The student only needs to provide his or her first name and a callback phone number for confidentiality purposes.

Victims of sexual assault are also entitled to academic accommodations, according to Title IX, a federal civil right that prohibits sex-based discrimination in education. These accommodations include excused absences, allowing students to make up missed work or exams and extending deadlines on assignments.

“In the same way that we want students with disabilities to feel fully engaged in our courses, we should want students whether they’re male, female, or gender non-conforming to feel they have access to resources on dealing with sexual violence,” said Hillary Vandenbark, a Ph.D candidate in the global gender studies program who teaches a class on gender-based violence.

Vandenbark discussed resources for sexual assault victims’ under disability accommodations on her course syllabus and said she encourages other instructors to do the same.

Peryea emphasized the importance of sexual violence prevention efforts. Incident rates have steadily decreased since implementing sexual violence prevention education in 2007, according to Peryea. She also feels there has been an “elevation in national consciousness” about sexual violence.

When the prevention program began, around 60 percent of students reported that they understood the concept of consent. Peryea said that number is now “in the high 90s.”

“In the last few years a lot of the policy changes we’ve seen that really supported proactive prevention education that’s not just scattered. We’re actually doing mandated programs…and that makes a huge difference,” she said.

Maddy Fowler is the assistant news editor and can be reached at maddy.fowler@ubspectrum.com


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