Last Wednesday, March 17, the Office of Communications and University Relations launched a new website with the aim of supporting those who have been impacted by domestic and/or sexual violence.
The University launched this website in an effort to take some responsibility and show that it cares for student welfare in light of the controversial Title IX report released earlier this month.
That said, it is necessary to wonder about the quality of this new site in light of the rushed timing and context surrounding its release. A fair question must be asked: Does this new website actually offer new and improved resources to survivors in our community, or does it function mostly as an effort to repair the University’s reputation?
So, how useful of a resource is this new website?
At first glance, the website does appear to be an improvement. Defining terms like “sexual assault” and trying to determine what falls under the umbrella of sexual harassment have been major issues when it comes to Title IX laws and regulations, and it seems like the University has made a sincere attempt to show a broader variety of reportable behaviors, listing sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking as major categories of sexual misconduct.
I commend the University for this, as well as for the general tone of the website, which emphasizes that reporting an incident is the survivor’s personal choice and notes that members of the community can receive medical care after an assault in the form of medical exams, testing and collection of evidence even without choosing to file an official report.
Overall, the website compassionately addresses those in the University community who are struggling with issues related to sexual and/or domestic violence, and it does offer some useful tips for individuals seeking to collect evidence after an assault.
However, upon further exploration, I find the new website to also be somewhat problematic.
Though the website does attempt to show that the University is committed to acknowledging and responding to instances of sexual violence by addressing survivors head-on, it also works to shift the burden of proof onto those survivors — and move the burden of responsibility away from the administration
The site repeatedly emphasizes that the University strongly encourages people to report these crimes, as that is the only way that they can help, while also adding that it is always an individual’s personal choice whether to report or not.
“If you choose not to disclose to LSU, the University is unable to investigate or take disciplinary action against the respondent (accused person)... It’s important to note, with minimal information there might not be enough evidence to conduct an investigation or look further into the incident.”
The above quote comes directly from the website’s portal for confidentiality and anonymous reporting. It should also be noted that aside from an anonymous tip resource line, the only links given to survivors are for pre-existing University services, namely the Student Health Center, Mental Health Services and the Lighthouse Program.
In essence, the website does not really offer anything new to survivors in our community.
It is no secret that officials are in a precarious position after the Husch Blackwell report was released earlier this month to shine a light on some major issues in the University’s approach to handling instances of sexual assault on campus.
However, this flippant construction of a new website, offering mostly recycled resources and heavily emphasizing the individual’s responsibility to report if they want the University’s help, does not do much to show a more than surface-level commitment to change.
It is a quick fix for a problem that demands a much more complex and lasting solution.
If the University truly wants to repair its image and relationship with the wider Baton Rouge community, it will need to show a commitment to real change in repairing its procedures, not merely its reputation.
Natalie Knox is a 23-year-old English senior from Lake Charles.