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‘No’ still means NO: Sexual assault continues, but remains under-reported

“If we already had sex it’s not rape,” Hannah Lengyel recalling her rapist’s words to her before she reported the incident.

When Hannah Lengyel met him in one of her classes, she eventually gave him a chance—despite her friends’ whispers of caution.

“When I first met him I thought he was weird; I thought he was a creep, but then I was like ‘No, maybe he’s not that bad,’” she said.

Lengyel, a history and pre-law major studying at Valdosta State University, had consensual sex with him once.

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A week after she returned from a spring break trip, she was raped at a house party minutes away from campus by the same boy.

“He got me alone in a shed and I didn’t want to be in there. I didn’t want to have sex with him again,” she said. “…He got very angry.”

Lengyel recalls being slightly intoxicated at the party but her rapist was ‘black-out’ drunk and persistent in getting her alone. No one else attending the party noticed anything out of the ordinary.

“I don’t know if people heard me screaming or if the music was just really loud or if I wasn’t screaming loud enough, because I was yelling for people and you couldn’t see into the shed,” she said. “But it wasn’t until he collapsed on the ground and completely fell over when some girls came in and said ‘Hey do you need help?’”

Lengyel’s physical bruising may have healed; however, the emotional scarring still remains.

“It didn’t even make a difference to him. He was just this monster,” she said.

Lengyel reported her rape a week after it occurred to Valdosta University police, resulting in her rapist being advised to do one of the following: get kicked out of the university without the ability to return for five years or drop out—he chose the latter.

“Because I waited a week to report it, they couldn’t get a count of rape. So they got him on sexual battery, sexual assault and then one other charge,” she said. “It doesn’t seem like that much, but he only faced three days in jail, he had to do 80 hours of community service, pay a $1,000 fine and go to anger management classes.”

Mutual friends of Lengyel and her rapist had mixed reactions after she reported the incident.

“[Some] people were very supportive. They always went with me to the police station when the investigations were going on and were always there when I needed a shoulder to cry on,” she said. “But the others completely turned around on me and said that I was a lying slut and even if it did happen, why was I even bothering to report it.”

Lengyel is no stranger to sexual assault; she was also raped at the mere age of 14—an incident she would keep secret for four years. During this time, she resorted to cutting as a way of coping.

“I can never remember a time during those four years being happy. It was always overshadowed. I didn’t want this to happen again—I didn’t want him to win again. I just felt like I let this guy off the hook and I wasn’t going to do it again,” Lengyel said on what inspired her to report her second sexual assault.

“I can never remember a time during those four years being happy. It was always overshadowed. I didn’t want this to happen again – I didn’t want him to win again. I just felt like I let this guy off the hook and I wasn’t going to do it again,” – Lengyel on what inspired her to report her second sexual assault.

 

The barrier to reporting

The Campus Sexual Assault Study (CSA) released in 2007 states 13.7 percent of 5,446 (approximately 746) undergraduate women sampled suffered at least one completed sexual assault since beginning college. Completed sexual assault is defined as sexual batteries and/or rape.

Note: The CSA 2007 study was conducted by Christopher P. Krebs, Ph.D., Christine H. Lindquist, Ph.D., Tara D. Warner, M.A., Bonnie S. Fisher Ph.D. and Sandra L. Martin, Ph.D.

Georgia State’s Safety & Security criminal statistics report indicates eight forcible sexual assaults occurred in 2012. Only four were reported in 2011.

Note: The university’s 2013 Safety & Security’s criminal statistics report will be available in October. The Signal will publish a follow-up story as part of an investigative series.

The Board of Regents’ University System of Georgia Semester Enrollment report states there were 32,022 students enrolled at Georgia State in the fall of 2011 and 32,087 in fall 2012.

Applying the CSA’s 13.7 percentage to Georgia State’s total population of students (male/female/other) for each of those semesters suggests approximately 4,387 students in 2011 and 4,396 in 2012 potentially suffered at least one completed sexual assault since they began college.

This suggests sexual assault remains vastly underreported on campus.
The
U.S. Department of Education will investigate more than 70 colleges and
universities on how they handle sexual abuse complaints and Emory
University is the only Georgia institution included as a part of a
compliance review, according to Security Info Watch’s website.

The review was announced by University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby and will be a part of the work of a new committee charged with examining aspects of campus safety and security, according to the website.

“The review is similar to work undertaken at other colleges across the country and it comes as federal scrutiny has highlighted deficiencies in compliance and reporting at some colleges and uncovered disturbing stories of student assaults,” the website states.

A report released by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill revealed more than 40 percent of 300 colleges and universities surveyed had not investigated a sexual abuse case in the past five years, according to the website.

“The state committee will focus on the safety training and performance of campus officers along with consistency and quality of reporting under the Clery Act. That federal statute requires all colleges receiving federal financial aid to report crimes on or near campuses. The committee will also review alcohol and other substance abuse issues on campuses, as well as mental health issues and policies..,” the website states.

 

In the shoes of a survivor—reasons for not reporting

Jill Lee-Barber, director of Psychological and Health Services, said many women don’t take action following their sexual assault because they blame themselves or they believe they will be ostracized by friends, family members or classmates.

“It’s a barrier to reporting,” Lee-Barber said. “More than half of all women raped in college don’t tell anyone or report it.”

She also said students come into the Counseling & Testing Center every week to discuss sexual assaults but not all of those students experienced these on campus.

“I really want students to know what they can do to protect themselves so that it doesn’t hurt their education,” she said. “The goal is to help students regain a sense of control. Students who are sexually assaulted may have difficulty concentrating. They may feel depressed or anxious. We don’t want students to lose an educational opportunity.”

Nicole Johnson, senior coordinator of Student Assistance (Victim Assistance) at Georgia State, said the exact number of sexual assaults occurring on campus is difficult to determine. Students who come into the dean’s office to talk about the issue aren’t always willing to disclose specifics.

She also said the university provides an overview of the criminal justice and student conduct process, what is involved in forensic sexual assault examination and options for seeking both emotional and psychological support. This includes medical referrals and options for withdrawing or completing academic requirements.

“Victim Assistance is available for students regardless of where the assault or when the assault occurred. Students may be referred to Victim Assistance from their personal statement for Emergency Withdrawal, the Counseling & Testing Center, Student Health Clinic or faculty/staff member,” Johnson said.

Georgia State students can either schedule appointments at the counseling center or arrive in on a walk-in basis after filling out questionnaires. The students can then discuss and describe the events with a counselor, according to Lee-Barber.

Georgia State’s Deputy Chief Carlton Mullis said campus police handle sexual assault seriously.

“We always encourage someone to report a crime. There are several different steps involved. The main reason why we want someone to report sexual assault is so that we can provide assistance to the person reporting,” he said.

The increase of campus sexual assaults depends on varying factors, according to Mullis.

“We go up year to year and usually when there’s a lot of attention on a topic, we’ll get more [reports], which is a good thing especially when we do encourage reports as far as raising of this issue is encouraging people to report,” he said. “We don’t get a lot so it doesn’t take us much percentage wise to get [higher numbers one year to the next].”

The Code of Conduct

The right to have any and all sexual assaults against them treated with seriousness, the right to be treated with dignity, and the right for campus organizations that assist such victims to be accorded recognition,” – Sexual Assault Victims Bill of Rights (SCC).

Georgia State’s Student Code of Conduct (SCC) for the 2014-2015 year states sexual misconduct includes: dating violence, domestic violence and non-consensual contact, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, and stalking—all violations of University policy and federal law.

The SCC’s educational section also states the university engages in risk reduction strategies to reduce the risk of Sexual Misconduct to provide prevention and awareness campaigns for students.

Student survivors of sexual assault crimes have three options for disclosure and reporting:

  1. Confidential disclosure: Reported to the Counseling and Testing Center, Victim Assistance or Student Health Clinic
  2. University report: Reported as Sexual Misconduct by students or Sexual Misconduct by faculty / staff.
  3. Law enforcement report: Reported to campus or local law enforcement agencies.

Mullis said a survivor of sexual assault can report a crime, but it doesn’t mean they are forced to press charges.

“The sooner the report [is filed] the more action is taken,” he said. “There’s evidence to be gathered. That doesn’t necessarily mean the person has to press charges but that evidence needs to be gathered immediately. Once its gathered we can discuss what action needs to be taken.”

The SCC states students considering filing a University Report or Law Enforcement Report are encouraged to preserve evidence of Sexual Misconduct including: clothing worn during the incident (undergarments), sheets/bedding/condoms if used, list of witnesses with contact information, and text messages/calls.

 

Informal:

  1. Discontinuing personal contact.
  2. Request for alteration of arrangements in: housing situation / dorm room, classroom setting, employment.
  3. Other additional actions may be taken by the Dean of Students.

At any point of an informal resolution, the Complaintant may terminate the informal process and initiate a Formal Resolution through the Sexual Misconduct Policy, according to the SCC.

Formal:

1. Administrative conference:

– Administrative conference held between the individual(s) filing a sexual assault complaint and those accused within five business days of the date of charge letter. If those accused fail to attend, the individuals who filed the complaint may proceed with the case.

-Those who filed the complaint must provide those accused with the following: Explanation of charges, copy of the SCC, a copy of the complaint, a copy of any written report resulting from the Review Process, a review of the accused’s due process rights, an explanation of the general process of

– Those accused must choose to accept responsibility (administrative resolution), not accept (waive a Sexual Misconduct Board hearing and have those accused administratively resolve the case) or not accept responsibilities and have a hearing before the Sexual Misconduct Board.

2. Administrative resolution:

– If the accused accepts / does not accept the responsibilitiy of charges and waives a hearing before the Sexual Misconduct Board, the case will be resolved via administration.

– The Complainant and those accused will be notified in writing of the name and title of the individual who’s been assigned to resolve the case.

– No later than three business days after receiving the written notice, both parties may challenge the selection of the person assigned to the case on a grounds of personal bias through the Dean of Students. The Dean of Students will determine whether to accept or deny the challenge. If accepted, a replacement will be appointed by administration.

– The individual will meet with the accused who will then have an opportunity to provide a statement on the alleged misconduct along with other supporting information. The accused may bring an adviser to their meetings with the case holder however may only speak with the accused and may not participate in the proceedings.

– The individual in charge of the case will also meet with the complainant and witnesses who have been provided by either parties in the case. A good faith effort will be made to contact all witnesses (including faculty or staff) to obtain statements. The Complainant may also bring an adviser but they may only speak with the individual and may not participate in proceedings.

– If new information is released during the hearing, indicating additional violations of the SCC, the person in charge of the case may review the new information and make a determination regarding responsibility for additional violations.

– At the conclusion of all meetings, there will be a determination of whether or not the accused are in violation of the Sexual Misconduct Policy or SCC. If so, disciplinary actions will apply. Both parties in the case will be notified of the decision in writing including a statement of charges, determination and the sanction to be implemented. This also includes the right to appeal.

3. Sexual Misconduct Board Hearing:

-Five faculty, five students and five staff members selected by the Vice President of Student Affairs will be comprised for hearings. There will be pre-procedural hearings (statements and lists of witnesses to testify for or against either party). The hearing will then take place with both parties (they may have an advisor present) and both will present their cases. The Dean of Students will then make the final decision after hearing both sides.

4. Sanctions:

– Those found guilty of the accusations may be subjected to one or more sanctions which will be imposed on either a temporary or permemant basis permeant. Sanctions go into effect as soon as the Dean of Students imposes said sanctions and will remain unless appealed.

5. Appeals:

– The complainant or those accused may appeal the final decision made by the Dean of Students and the Sexual Misconduct Board. Appeals may be submitted to: the Vice President of Student Affairs, Georgia State’s president or The Board of Regents.

 

A path of self-healing—overcoming the stigmas of sexual assault

Recent political science graduate, Mary MacRae, was sexually assaulted by a non-Georgia State student as she entered the bathroom on the first floor of Classroom South during Maymester 2014.

The man followed her, grabbed her from behind and she proceeded to hide in the bathroom for 10-15 minutes hoping he would leave.

“…I tried to find the phone number for campus police on the GSU page from my phone while hiding, but I was not able to. I peeked out of the bathroom toward the elevators and I did not see anyone on the floor,” she said.

She went to the elevators, and as the doors were closing the man jumped in with MacRae. She screamed, jumped and pushed several buttons to shut him inside.

MacRae ran to a stairwell and a maintenance employee gave her the number for campus police. Officer Lewis took her statement and description.

“Contrary to what I have heard about campus PD, they were very helpful in my case. They followed up with me anytime there was a change or new development in the case,” MacRae said.

Within hours, the man was found, arrested and held for 60-70 days before the trial. The judge placed a restraining order, sentenced probation and required him to undergo therapy.

“I feel as though this was an appropriate punishment—he was not violent (although I did not give him the opportunity to become violent) and he seemed like he was on some kind of drugs or alcohol or not fully there mentally,” she said. “I feel like this process will hopefully get him the help he needs.”

Mullis said Georgia State police are responsible for any crime that occurs on campus whether they be faculty, student or visitor.

MacRae, much like Lengyel, said she is still shaken up by the incident because it made her feel less safe on campus and would like to see university police’s contact information more prevalent in buildings.

“I always try to make sure that I am safe walking in downtown at night, but this happened in a classroom building during the middle of the day…,” she said. “…I would like to see more security in classroom buildings and in the courtyard on campus so that these kinds of events are prevented.”

There are over 80 police call boxes located on campus and university police are open for suggetions to make campus safer, according to Mullis.

“Looking at it from our perspective is sometimes helpful for someone to say ‘Hey could you put some more signs up?’ That sounds reasonable,” he said. “Maybe we do need to look into getting some more signage that has our number on it.”

If there’s an emergency and a person cannot find a call box or the campus police’s number, Mullis said they should dial 911 to go through the Atlanta Police Department and transfer back to Georgia State.

“The whole reason we exist as a police department is to serve our community. That’s what we’re here for,” he said.

Lengyel said from learning of CSA’s statistics and being a survivor of sexual assault, those who are unsure of reporting rape should do so immediately after the incident.

“Definitely report it. I would say 100 percent, because looking back now, I honestly don’t think that I could live with myself if I hadn’t reported it,” she said. “…I didn’t want his friends to be going around thinking they could do this too.”

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