• March 28, 2015

Iowa State Daily

Sexual assault statistics increase at Iowa State

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Posted: Tuesday, November 16, 2010 4:30 pm | Updated: 8:38 pm, Sun Jan 9, 2011.

The number of sexual assaults reported at Iowa State has increased during the past two years. 

Four sexual assaults were reported in 2007. The number of reported cases increased to 10  in 2008 and continued to rise in 2009 to 20, according to the Safety and You statistics the university is required to report annually.

"I cannot tell you definitively why the numbers have changed like that," said Dione Somerville, dean of students. 

Many people misunderstand the difference between sexual misconduct and sexual assault. 

"Sexual exploitation, harassment and abuse are all things that are included in sexual misconduct," Somerville said. "Sexual assault is strictly rape."

Iowa State's statistics on forcible sex offenses are the highest among Big 12 schools.

There are organizations and services at Iowa State dedicated to promoting awareness and prevention of sexual assault. These include the Assault Care Center Extending Shelter and Support and the Story County Sexual Assault Response Team, which each guarantee confidentiality.

Every year during Destination Iowa State, Catalyst Theater Company presents an award winning "Scene on Campus" skit.

"They use interactive theater techniques, focusing primarily on incoming freshmen, to educate them on the issues of sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking," said Steffani Simbric, coordinator for Story County SART.

ACCESS provides a 24-hour crisis line, shelter, individual counseling, support groups, advocacy and community education regarding sexual and domestic violence, according to their website.

SART is an on-campus group of specially-trained community professionals who work together to meet the needs of sexual assault victims and survivors, according to their brochure.

SART services are free and available 24 hours a day. The group offers three different options upon notification that a sexual assault has occurred. The victim chooses which option to pursue. Medical attention is provided at no cost.

"The emphasis of SART is housed at Iowa State and Iowa State Police Department," said Sgt. Elliot Florer, police sergeant for the Department of Public Safety. "[SART Coordinator Simbric] and I do presentations every semester to classes on campus, and we did a Sexual Assault Awareness Month project. We try and break down those barriers and get the students to see police officers as real people and we are interested in helping."

Recently, SART's budget has suffered budget cuts from the Iowa Attorney General's Office.

"The funding was intended for start-up costs, and now it's time for the community to start owning the program, and now with a short notice, the group is trying to figure out how to proceed with the matter," Simbric said. "At this time it is very unknown what we will do, although we will be receiving some grant money for the next two years but certainly not enough to sustain the level that the program has been funded at and needs to operate."

The biggest question about the increase is whether or not more sexual assaults are actually happening or if the victims are more comfortable reporting their experiences due to the outreach Iowa State provides.

"We place a heavy emphasis on victim reporting, and we try to eliminate those barriers to make it more comfortable for those people that come forward about being assaulted," Florer said.

If a student becomes a victim of sexual assault, it is strongly encouraged to seek immediate assistance. 

"We encourage students to call the Dean of Students Office to make an appointment so that we can make sure that you have all of the information you need, resources available and support," Somerville said. 

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