The University of Connecticut launched a new website to provide information on dealing with sexual violence, relationship violence and stalking awareness. Upon first navigating to the page, one can find a plethora of information, including phone numbers, links and definitions. The “you can!” attitude has been superimposed on “UConn” to create a rather transparent pun.
Procedures for every step of the process as well as any situation can be found on the website. There is statewide hotline numbers provided as well as health services.
Under the “Get Help” tab is one section created specifically for the respondent, i.e. the accused. First sentence reads, “If you have been accused of sexual misconduct, this may be a confusing and overwhelming time.” Ignoring the unacceptable way of sympathizing with the accused, these considerate words are not seen in any of the sections provided for the victims of these situations.
Under the “Urgent and Medical Care” tab is simply a factual, informative statement that “while there is no one right way to get help, below are some suggested steps you can take following an experience of sexual violence, relationship violence, or stalking.”
Under the “File a Report” tab, there is extensive information about filing a report. It details the different steps to be taken for a police report as well as a university report. Bolstered by colorful diagrams and the statement “You have the right to report without further participating in any investigation” bolded, it’s a thinly veiled attempt to rebuild the trust between the student body and the administration.
The biggest problem was not the lack of information about the procedural steps of reporting sexual violence, but the lack of administrative compassion. The name of the school and its reputation were clearly held above the safety of several women.
Going to the frequently asked questions, we see UConn provide their definition of consent and give advice on how to reduce the risk of being drugged and sexually assaulted. This carries the connotation that both circumstances cannot possibly be mutually exclusive. It’s reinforced with the statistic that alcohol is present in 80 percent to 85 percent of reported rapes. The statistic that the cruel need for power over another human being is present in 100 percent of rapes is one I have yet to see stated.
Under the News section, we see links to six documents that have subject matter to do with Title IX and UConn, listed chronologically, the earliest from 2013. In the past two years, there have only been six useful documents about sexual harassment. There is one under-commercialized event “Coffee and Conversation with the Title IX Coordinator.” Here there is an option to attend an open discussion with Elizabeth Conklin and Title IX staff.
Under prevention programs, there are a list of materials and programs available to students to help prevent sexual assault. One of which was listed, UConn Men’s Project, lacked a hyperlink. On Googling the program, the UConn Men’s Project was simply an offshoot from Violence Against Women Prevention Program, which was also separately listed. The rest of the hyperlinks led to a Rape Aggression Defense program offered by the police department, alcohol and other drug services, and guard dogs. Once again, giving responsibility to potential victims to take care of themselves.
Reading this list only reinforced the feeling that sexual assault was equated to a disease, in which, the victims needed to prepare for. There was plenty of advice offered to students on how to determine if you were sexually assaulted and whether someone is incapacitated to the point where they can no longer consent. Though, this may have been a step in the right direction by acknowledging the existence of sexual violence on campuses, the website redirects the actual problem we see on campuses.
The primary issue isn’t that students are not aware when they are sexually assaulted nor is it the lack of phone numbers they can call for help. Although, in my opinion, 911 should suffice, with the issues surrounding the way investigations have been previously held, I can see why people may hesitate.
The primary problem is the way investigations have been held and the way students have been treated going through the process of reporting sexual assault. To simply give instructions on how the process takes place takes away from the pain past victims have felt. The information given on this website is useful; however, UConn should not think it is sufficient.
Jesseba Fernando is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.