UT campaigns aim to curb sexual assault on campus

Office of Equity and Diversity report details 38 sexual misconduct cases from a 2015 report. UT was unable to take action in 21 of the cases.

//Photo by Ryan McGill

Written by Alaina Briones

The Office of Equity and Diversity shed light on sexual misconduct at The University of Tennessee with a report detailing 38 cases of student-on-student sexual misconduct reported in 2015.

According to the data, UT was unable to take disciplinary action in 21 of the 38 cases reported. In eight cases, UT either honored requests against disciplinary action or the accuser declined to participate in the student conduct process.

However, many cases are never reported due to the victim feeling ashamed or unsure about the steps to take.

One victim shared her experience about being sexually assaulted in Presidential Court her freshman year.

“I didn’t think anyone would believe me, honestly. I was extremely intoxicated, and also underage at the time. I had no clue what to do, so I did nothing,” she said.

In July 2016, UT settled a federal Title IX lawsuit for $2.48 million after eight women accused the university of maintaining a “hostile sexual environment” regarding sexual assaults and the “deliberate indifference” towards student athletes.

These complaints briefly mention former Volunteers quarterback Peyton Manning’s sexual assault complaint made by former Volunteers trainer Jamie Ann Naughright from 1996.

The lawsuit placed UT under strict observation of the national media. Jimmy Cheek said the campus added several programs and positions “dedicated to sexual assault prevention and response.”

Sarah Gardner, Sexual Assault Prevention and Support Coordinator in the Office of Health Education and Wellness, is among these positions added in response to the university’s scrutiny.

Gardner’s role includes prevention work and sexual health education. She makes sure students understand what sexual assault policies and “consent” mean. Her other important role is intervention. She works closely with colleagues to make sure that students referred to the Office of Health Education and Wellness are “okay, safe and successful” during their time at UT.

The university has implemented several campaigns through these resources to bring awareness to UT’s campus.

The Office of Health Education and Wellness sponsors The Red Flag Campaign, which brings awareness to relationship violence. Another awareness program called the Red Zone educates students about the fall semester time when students are statically more at risk for sexual assault.

“The goal is to create a campus culture where students watch out for one another and where they take care of each other. It’s about changing the culture,” Gardner said.

Seventy-five to eighty percent of sexual assaults are committed by an acquaintance/non-stranger, classmate or friend, according to the Red Zone. A 2007 report on Campus Sexual Assault funded by the U.S. Department of Justice indicated that 20 to 25 percent of female undergraduates experience attempted or completed rape during their college careers.

The university’s 2015 report showed 17 students who identified the alleged attacker, 17 students declining to identify and four students reporting the alleged attacker as unknown to them.

UT Wellness Coordinator Fletcher Haverkamp works with a team to carry out tasks relating to policies, new programs and communications surrounding sexual assault and relationship violence. His job is funded by a Violence Against Women grant from the Department of Justice awarded to UT in 2015.

One of his main focuses at the moment is active bystander programming for undergraduate students, but specifically fraternity men.

Haverkamp encourages everyone to be an active bystander, and emphasizes the importance it can make in situations of distress. He challenged students with an active charge to take responsibility in situations, “accept responsibility for the situation, because if it’s not you then nobody else will do it.”

The university says it aspires to become a front-runner in sexual assault prevention. Resources are available for those who experience prohibited conduct. UT will assign a Title IX Coordinator to the Sexual Assault Response Team to work with the student to evaluate care, support needs and discuss options under university policies.

“There is a national culture regarding blaming the survivors. People will often question what was happening before someone was assaulted… What I would like to break is this myth that it’s ever the survivor’s fault. A survivor doesn’t ask for this experience to happen to them,” Haverkamp stated.

If an attack occurs, UTPD directs students to find a safe place, contact a trusted individual, preserve all evidence, seek medical care and consider any campus resource.

For more information on sexual assault at The University of Tennessee, visit this website.


Edited by McKenzie Manning

Featured image by Ryan McGill

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