EDITOR’S NOTE: This story contains graphic descriptions of an alleged sexual assault. The Daily Reveille agreed to withhold Emma’s real name.
Emma said she met the man who would sexually assault her at a party her freshman year.
“We exchanged numbers and we started talking,” Emma said. “I thought he was really cool.”
He was a college freshman from out of town who asked Emma if he could stay with her the next time he came to visit. Emma agreed.
About a month later, he came to Baton Rouge for two nights and stayed in Emma’s Pentagon dorm room.
Emma said they innocently fooled around the first night, and the second night they both went out with separate groups of friends.
At a bar in Tigerland that night, Emma said she began to feel nauseous, though she only had one drink.
Looking back on the episode a few years later, Emma now suspects someone slipped something in her cup.
A friend walked her back to her dorm, where she said she met the man who was staying with her.
They walked up to her room, and Emma said she went to the hall restroom to lay down on the bathroom floor with her head against the toilet.
When she returned to her room, she said the man was in her bed, urging her to join him.
Emma said she sat on the floor with her head between her knees until he eventually carried her into bed, where he began undressing and kissing her.
She said she faded in and out of consciousness as he unsuccessfully tried to penetrate her.
In the brief moments she was awake, Emma said she repeatedly told him she did not want to have sex until she eventually passed out completely.
Emma said she knows she was not raped that night.
But it wasn’t until much later, when she described the incident to a friend, that Emma said she realized she had been sexually assaulted.
“I didn’t think anything of it because I was young and I was naive and I thought it was my fault for drinking and for inviting him over and for not shoving him off of me and for not leaving — and its not,” she said.
Emma said she knows her story is just one of many cases of sexual assault across campus and believes the University does not adequately promote resources for victims.
“They’re out there if you want to look for them, but I can’t even say what they are fully and I feel like I’m slightly more educated than the average student,” Emma said.
TALKING ABOUT SEXUAL ASSAULT
“The figure is one in four college women,” said Summer Steib, director of the University’s Women’s Center. “If we have an incoming freshman class with about 2,500 women in it, you’re looking at probably at least 500 to 600 of those women will be sexually assaulted before they graduate.”
In April, the “Not Alone” report was issued — the first of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, which says it is tasked, in part, to “help schools live up to their obligation to protect students from sexual violence.”
Taylor Lambert, Student Government vice president, said the definition of sexual assault elicits a sense of confusion among students, and said the late night partying, drinking and dancing characterizing many Thursday nights contribute to a fundamental misunderstanding of the topic.
“I don’t think women, especially, know what is sexual assault,” Lambert said. “If this guy tries to like, kiss them, or take them home or make out with them, and they’re drunk out at Tigerland and they don’t want to, I don’t think they know that that’s sexual assault.”
According to LSUPD spokesman Capt. Cory LaLonde, there have been six reported cases of “sex offenses” as of January 2013.
“We know that there are probably some additional instances that aren’t reported,” Lalonde said.
Emma said she thinks the majority of those cases are, like hers, anything but black and white.
“I don’t think it’s that all these women are being grabbed out of a dark alley,” Emma said. “I think there are so many people that have experiences just like this that are at the lower level, that are less violent, and so they’re not taken as seriously.”
No matter the circumstances under which a sexual assault occurs, two-day long freshmen orientation sessions attempt to educate incoming students about reporting through skits, a question and answer panel and an information fair.
During the half-hour skit, incoming freshmen watch orientation leaders act out a possible sexual assault scenario, said Susan Bareis, health promotion coordinator of the Student Health Center.
Bareis said the skit demonstrates that “anything but a verbal yes should be considered a no” in terms of consent to sexual activity and discusses matters such as emergency contraceptives and sexual transmitted infections testing.
“It’s very memorable,” Bareis said. “I think it’s a good way to approach sexual assault.”
Bareis said incoming students are required to complete an online exam about personal health called “My Student Body,” with a score of at least 80 percent. The exam is multiple choice and mandates listening to audio recordings.
“They can retake it as many times as they need to,” Bareis said.
Bareis said she thinks the University does a good job of informing students of their resources and the topic of sexual assault.
When she was an undergraduate student, Bareis said people did not have a clear definition of sexual assault.
“The definition is still being formed,” Bareis said. “And I think it will always continue to evolve.”
Emma said that students’ lack of knowledge concerning sexual assault is amplified by the disconnect between the University’s programs and its students.
Emma said that years after her experience with sexual assault, she knows that students have several avenues to get help, but she also knows the University’s resources will be wasted if student awareness remains at its current level.
LIGHTHOUSE AND SANE
Emma, now a senior, said she was unaware of the Lighthouse Program at the time of the interview.
The Lighthouse Program, a subdivision of the Student Health Center, is the University’s flagship sexual assault resource. It works to support survivors through the help of various Lighthouse Advocates stationed around campus.
Lighthouse Advocates include faculty and staff who have undergone a daylong training session in the summer, where they receive a course in sexual assault and hear instructional seminars from both LSUPD and mental health services.
Seirra Fowler, the Lighthouse Program’s co-coordinator, said there are roughly 90 Advocates on campus.
“You might have an established relationship with a professor, an adviser, someone on campus. So you feel a lot safer going to that person disclosing this traumatic event that has happened to you,” Fowler said.
Advocates are identified by the Lighthouse Program’s logo on their office doors, and their names and contact information are available on the health center’s website.
The Lighthouse Program also works in conjunction with the SHC’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners program, or SANE, a free service providing students with forensic evaluations and rape kits.
But students who choose to seek campus treatment past 5 p.m. or on weekends are out of luck, as SANE’s services are only available during the SHC’s normal business hours.
“We’re just not a 24-hour facility, and that’s administration’s decision about our operating hours,” Fowler said. “Also, what is really important to remember is that evidence collection kit can be collected up to four days after an assault.”
Fowler, who is also an SHC Health Promotion Coordinator, said she was unsure if the Health Center had made a request to extend its hours of operation.
Despite Lighthouse’s status as a major University resource, Fowler said there is only so much the organization can do to reach a new audience.
“I can plan and plan and plan, but if students don’t care, if students don’t show up, if students don’t take ownership of these things that we’re trying to implement and teach them, then its just going to fall flat and its going to be a waste of my resources and your time,” Fowler said.
Steib said more students must get involved for an effective dialogue to take place.
“If it comes from your own peer group, if it comes from the student community, you’re much more likely to listen and to engage and to see the importance of those messages,” Steib said. “You’re much more likely to just tune me out.”
“I don’t think change can happen unless it’s [done through] peers,” Emma said. “Kids will never want to listen to adults — bottom line.”
Through University’s Office of Student Advocacy and Accountability, students have options to report sexual assault and other forms of sexual misconduct outside of police involvement.
“The University process is not civil or criminal,” said Matthew Gregory, assistant dean of students and director of Student Advocacy and Accountability. “Our process is grounded in our contractual relationship with the university based on our policies and expectations of our students.”
Under the University’s Student Code of Conduct, section 10.2 titled Behavioral Misconduct, two categories directly deal with negative forms sexual activity — sexual harassment and sexual misconduct.
According to Section S, “sexual misconduct” may be defined as “Any sexual act or contact of a sexual nature that occurs, regardless of personal relationship, without the consent of the other person(s), or that occurs when the person(s) is unable to give consent or whose consent is coerced or obtained in a fraudulent manner.”
Individuals believed to be in violation will be issued a letter, instructing them to set up a meeting with SAA.
“We will talk to anyone and everyone who has knowledge of the incident in question to try to get the best picture possible of what occurred,” Gregory said.
Following the investigation, SAA reaches a conclusion about what occurred and under what circumstances the individual in question will remain at the University. This is known as an informal resolution.
“If that does not work, the case will have to be decided formally under the University Panel Hearing Process,” Gregory said.
Gregory said this panel, which has a maximum of five members, consists of at least one faculty member and one student.
For cases involving sexual misconduct and sexual harassment, the University Panel issues a formal decision based upon the advice of the Alternate Panel. The Alternate Panel, in this instance, would be composed of individuals on the University Panel who undergo a half-day “specialty training,” Gregory said.
“It is intended to equip them with knowledge and skills beyond that of a basic behavioral case,” Gregory said.
Individuals respond to situations of crisis and being victims of crimes in different ways, Gregory said, and this training is supposed to provide them insight.
Thinking back on his undergraduate experience, Gregory said he did not understand the full definition of sexual assault and he agrees with Lalonde — the number of sexual assaults reported to LSUPD probably does not reflect the actual number of incidents.
“That’s exactly why it’s important to SAA to create an environment that is supportive, where people feel comfortable coming forward and reporting something,” Gregory said.
Emma, now a senior, said she gets emotional about the incident when she talks about it, but knows nothing will change if more survivors don’t share their stories.
“They need to do a better job of putting themselves out there and making themselves known,” Emma said of the University’s resources. “I think that they probably do an OK job of being there for people, but how can you be there for somebody who doesn’t know you exist?”