Marcus Connolly, The Paisano
According to data gathered by the National Institute of Justice, 35 incidents of rape occur each academic year for every 1,000 women attending college or university. As stated in the UTSA Police Department’s Annual Security Report, there have been just seven incidents of sexual assault this academic year. For a university of UTSA’s size, touting female enrollment of 14,091 as of Fall 2014, the numbers do not add up. But to say that the institution misrepresents the amount of sexual violence occurring on campus is an oversimplification of the process of reporting and also dismisses the deeply rooted sense of shame and stigma that society places on survivors of rape who decide to report their attacker.
The National Crime Victimization Survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2014 found that 80 percent of college students did not report a sexual assault that occurred, as opposed to 67 percent of non-students surveyed. Perhaps a contributing factor to this lack of reporting (as theorized by the same study) is the disconcerting fact that among college women, nine in ten survivors know their attacker.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is the landmark federal civil rights
legislation that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program that receives federal funding. Under Title IX, discrimination on the basis of sex includes sexual harassment, rape and sexual assault, as the victim is deprived of equal and free access to education.
UTSA’s Title IX Coordinator is Leonard Flaum. Operating out of UTSA’s Equal Opportunity Office (EOS), Flaum is tasked with receiving, investigating and eventually reporting complaints of sexual assault to UTSAPD. The student can then choose whether they would like to pursue charges through the criminal process or through the university’s administrative office, Student Conduct and Community Standards. All the while, the EOS facilitates the support for the student’s needs by reaching out to Counseling Services, Health Services or, if the student lives in the same dorm as their attacker and would like to move, Housing and Residence Life.
Flaum gives an example of the academic relief offered to a survivor of assault who came to the EOS Office about a year ago:
“It was around March when we found out about the issue. The student had stopped attending classes, so we then talked to that student and asked what that student wanted. We were able to work with the faculty and get that student Incompletes. They were then given a timeline to complete the coursework. So, by working with the professors, we allowed that student to complete their schoolwork for that year even though they weren’t attending classes, because of what had happened.”
Sgt. Thomas Calluci of the university’s police department believes that “our university is “far ahead of many other universities when it comes to sexual violence,” and described the collaboration of the many administrative offices in dealing with complaints of sexual assault after the investigative team has gathered information as “a lot of tentacles being spread out really quickly.”
When asked to explain the exceptionally low number of assaults on the record at UTSA, Callucci stated, “If we identify an offender and the complainant does not wish to pursue criminal charges, we call that exceptionally cleared; So as far as I know, does that explain why? I don’t know.”
Sgt. Calluci went on to dispel the stereotype that rapes occur more frequently among the Greek community at UTSA.
“Before I was promoted to lieutenant, I was in charge of Criminal Investigations for eight years. And quite honestly, I don’t remember one standing out that was fraternity or Greek related. Are they more frequent? No.”
He concluded by stating that education is key in preventing sexual crimes on campus and that educating and engaging with the community is important to prevention.
Another office potentially involved when a student has been assaulted is Counseling Services. The director, Dr. Thomas Baez, wants students to know that their services are free, safe, comfortable and confidential. He noted the prevalence of acquaintance rapes and cited that as a reason students do not want to report. He stated that students being able to make their own choices whether to report or not is important to the recuperation process. Counseling Services works in tandem with the Police Department and the Rape Crisis Center to aid survivors of assault.
Another service available to survivors is the 24 hour on-call hotline available through Counseling Services. Upon calling, students are advised of their options and walked through the process as they decide which route is best for them. The number to the hotline is (210) 223-7233.
The office of Student Conduct and Community Standards (SCCS) is another outlet where a survivor can be heard. After EOS investigates, if the complainant chooses to pursue the matter through this office, SCCS would carry out the adjudication process. Assistant Director Christa Winkler describes her office and the collaboration of the other administrative offices involved as a “safety net” for students and reiterated the idea that students should make their own decisions in choosing how to pursue cases.
Whichever route the survivor of the assault chooses to take, administrators want them to be advised of their options and of the support resources available to students of UTSA.
“Obviously this is an under-reported crime, and we want to encourage people, number one, to protect themselves so that they can prevent the crime from occurring and two, if it does occur, to please report it so that they can get the help that they need,” said Executive Director of Communications Christi Fish.