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Resources for sexual assault victims expands at UND

UND leaders believe an increase in reported sexual assaults on campus is likely due to a rise in reporting and access to resources, not necessarily a rise in incidents.

In 2016, there were four reported sexual offenses on campus and six reported in non-campus locations. Those numbers increased in 2017 to 12 total reported sexual offences on campus and seven reported on non-campus locations.

Just because there was an increase in the number of reported sexual assaults on campus, that does not mean there was necessarily an increase in sexual assaults, UND Police Chief Eric Plummer told the Herald earlier this month. It may be due to an increase in reporting, he said, a sentiment others at the university haven't disagreed with.

Not only does research show that sexual assault is an underreported crime in general, but it is even more so at colleges and universities across the country, said Erica Stam, who works with the Community Violence Intervention Center at UND. This can be due to fear of retaliation or what their friends may think of them afterwards, she said. CVIC staff at UND try to give students as many resources as they can to help students, she said.

The partnership with CVIC and the university began in January 2015. Under the plan, a CVIC employee serves on a half-time basis, about 20 hours per week. The individual serves as a confidential advocate for victims.

Peggy Jo, a prevention and education specialist, was added to the program earlier this year, where she meets with department heads, student organizations and other campus groups to provide sexual assault education and prevention training.

There are no definitive numbers to back up Peggy Jo's work, but she stays very busy and is constantly meeting with faculty, students, athletes and many others around campus, Smith said.

It is "good" that people are beginning to report sexual assault more, said Donna Smith, Title IX coordinator at the university. She said she does not have any reason to believe there are more incidents occurring on campus.

There are many campus and community resources available to students who may have experienced a sexual assault, Smith said. Confidential sources of information and support include CVIC Student Health Services, the University Counseling Center and Altru Hospital.

There also are campus resources which are guided by Title IX and will keep information private, including the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, UND Police and the Title IX coordinator or any other the eight deputy Title IX coordinators.

These private information resources will inquire about the victim's wishes moving forward and will work to find a resolution consistent with the person's needs, Smith said. Students can get a range of support—getting information about possible next steps, making a report and requesting support resources, such as campus contact restrictions or housing/academic assistance.

Students can make a report and request "non-adjudication options," such as education or counseling to address concerning behavior. The campus resources also can help students initiate a formal complaint, which can lead to a disciplinary process.

Smith said faculty and staff ultimately want to do whatever the student feels is right for them.

Students can report a crime anonymously at UND.edu/public-safety/report-a-crime.cfm, or they can report an incident to the Title IX coordinator at UND.edu/affirmative-action/incident-report.cfm.

Sydney Mook

Sydney Mook has been covering higher education at the Grand Forks Herald since May 2018. She previously served as the multimedia editor and cops, courts and health reporter at the Dickinson Press from January 2016 to May 2018.  She graduated from the University of South Dakota with a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science in three and half years in December 2015. While at the USD, she worked for the campus newspaper, The Volante, as well as the television news show, Coyote News. She also interned at South Dakota Public Broadcasting and spent the summer before her senior year interning in Fort Knox for the ROTC Cadet Summer Training program. In her spare time, Sydney enjoys cheering on the New York Yankees and the Kentucky Wildcats, as well as playing golf. If you've got an idea for a video be sure to give her a call!

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