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North Georgia colleges aim to prevent sexual abuse on campus
Security, awareness key factors to avoiding danger
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Sexual abuse on college campuses

26 reports of sexual misconduct were made for the University of North Georgia’s Dahlonega campus since August 2014

15 reports of sexual misconduct were made for UNG’s Gainesville campus since August 2014

0 sexual assaults reported at Brenau University since August 2014

1 in 5 women nationally are victims of a sexual assault or rape while in college

1 in 16 men nationally are victims of a sexual assault or rape while in college

9 in 10 victims of rape and sexual assault nationally knew the person who assaulted them

Source: Brenau University, the University of North Georgia and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center

One in 5 women and 1 in 16 men will be sexually assaulted, harassed or abused while in college, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

At the University of North Georgia’s campuses, 41 reports of sexual misconduct have been made this school year. None have been made at Brenau University.

New campus safety recommendations will be presented May 19 following work by a Campus Safety and Security Committee that University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby announced in September.

The committee investigates sexual violence and assaults on campus as well as partnerships campuses make with local municipalities.

The UNG Dahlonega campus had 26 reports of sexual misconduct this school year, up from 11 cases the year before and 7 cases the year before that.

Alyson Paul, assistant vice president for student affairs at the university, said the increase in reports doesn’t necessarily raise concerns.

Kate Maine, associate vice president for university relations, said she believes the increase is due more to greater awareness than more incidents.

“Although the majority (almost two-thirds) of the reports are concerning issues of sexual harassment, reports of sexual assault, rape and sexual exploitation have also been received,” Maine said. “We believe the increased number of reports are attributable to our enhanced educational efforts that encourages students to report concerns.”

Amanda Stover, UNG student and risk management chair for the university’s Delta Zeta chapter, said she feels “pretty safe” on campus, but advises students to always be aware of their surroundings and the people with them.

As risk management chair, it’s Stover’s job to keep the women in her sorority safe.

“I make sure they’re not doing anything that could hurt them, and I give them tips on how to stay healthy and safe,” she said. “I also patrol formals and events, making sure only those that are of age are drinking and that everyone’s having a good time while being safe.”

Common sense to stay safe

Banks said she advises incoming freshmen to always implement the buddy system, particularly when walking through campus or downtown in the evenings.

“My advice to young college students regarding safety would be get prepared,” she said. “Take defensive classes prior to getting to college. Also buy those products like mace and Tasers.”

If a student has endured abuse, the universities want to ensure their future safety and security.

“We want to make sure they’re not going to have to bump into that person in the hallway,” Paul said. “If they don’t show up for class the next day, they don’t have to go tell a faculty member what happened or face penalties for missing class. And if students are learning some of the services we can provide if this happens, they may be more willing to report.”

Amanda Lammer, Brenau University student services vice president, said since the university began tracking sexual abuse allegations under the newest federal guidelines, Brenau has not had any allegations reported.

“I’ve consulted on some questions of, ‘Is this harassment or is this not?’” she said. “But ultimately it was not.”

Lammer said for the most part, Brenau’s campus is safer than most because all of its resident students are female. Yet that’s not to say women cannot be the aggressors, she said.

“But I do believe that helps our statistics,” she said. “Our campus is also dry, and we all know alcohol often unfortunately leads to this situations or creates an environment where these situations are more likely to happen.”

Byronica Banks, Brenau senior and SGA president, said she feels confident in the campus police and the Student Services Department’s ability to both ensure student safety and investigate an issue.

“Campus Security makes it very safe,” Banks said. “At the beginning of your freshman year, it is highly encouraged that students save security’s phone number in their cellphones. They are always there and will come immediately when a student calls them.”

As president of SGA, Banks is a mandatory reporter. She said it is her responsibility to report to the administration if a student is trying to harm someone or has done so.

Lammer and Paul said another aspect of keeping students safe is education.

“We have worked with our new students as they’ve come in as freshmen,” Lammer said. “But what we’re going to do in the fall to reach all students at all of our campuses is incorporate an online module.”

Reporting sexual abuse

In 2011, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights issued what is now known as the “Dear Colleague” letter, which reminded universities and Title IX coordinators of their role in ending the sexual harassment of students.

Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in all education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.

Two years after that letter, the Violence Against Women Act was reauthorized, which changed the way campuses must report sexual abuse.

Lammer said since the changes, the process of reporting and investigating an allegation on campus has become “incredibly complex.”

Under the guidelines, nearly every college employee is a mandatory reporter, Lammer said.

“We have trained all of our faculty and staff to understand that, under the new federal guidelines, the only people who are not mandated reporters on campus are the university counselors and the university chaplain,” Lammer said. “... But if students were to reveal that to any other staff or faculty member, that person would have to tell the student, ‘I understand what you’re going through, but because of the seriousness of the situation, we need to report it to the Title IX coordinator.’”

Lammer serves as Title IX coordinator at Brenau. Paul said UNG also has recently hired a Title IX coordinator, through whom all allegations must go.

The first step after an allegation has been made to a mandatory reporter at UNG is for a dean of students or the Title IX coordinator to reach out to the victim.

“We just want to make sure they understand the accommodations or services that we can provide,” Paul said. “Those are making sure they are safe, that there are no recurring dangers or that they have gotten medical treatment.”

At UNG and Brenau, students have options regarding what kind of report they wish to make. They do not have to pursue charges, but they can report to police or be part of an investigation through Title IX.

“If they are interested in obtaining a protective order or even just a campus no-contact order, or if they want to pursue it in a criminal nature, they can pursue that avenue,” Paul said. “A lot of students don’t want that, but they go to the campus police out of fear they’ll have another interaction with this person on campus.”

Lammer said while the students have a choice in whether to report to local law enforcement, the college or university must investigate.

“As a university, the new legislation has said to us, ‘You cannot sit idly by,’” Lammer said. “It’s the student’s choice, but as an institution, we have to make sure our campus is safe.”

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