SaVE provides more health services to victims
Published: Monday, March 4, 2013
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 21:04
The Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, or SaVE, passed by Congress Thursday requires universities to provide information and health services to a larger pool of students, such as victims of dating violence domestic violence and stalking, according to a university official. Federal grant money will be used to administer programs on-campus, such as hiring a dating counselor for the Wellness Center.
The act was added as a provision to the Violence Against Women Act and serves as strict guidelines on how colleges and universities are meant to respond if a student comes forward claiming assault. While the Violence Against Women Act has existed since 1994, the SaVE Act was originally proposed as its own legislation or a possible amendment to the Clery Act, which requires all colleges and universities to keep and disclose information on and near their campuses, coordinator of Sexual Offense Support at the office of Student Wellness and Health Promotion and project director for the federal grant Angela Seguin said.
Every few years, the federally funded act needs to be reauthorized, as it administers a large sum of money out of the federal budget, she said.
“Most colleges and universities already provide services and ensure rights for victims of dating and domestic violence and stalking, but where there are gaps in services to these victims,” Seguin said. “The law is intended to provide accountability.”
Seguin said she is also the chair of the university’s Coordinated Campus Response to Gender-Based Violence Committee, which was initiated four years ago with a focus on sexual assault. When the university received the VAWA grant in 2011, Seguin said the committee broadened its focus to include the issues of dating violence, domestic violence and stalking on campus.
“The fact that UD and DSU have a Violence Against Women Act campus grant is a testament to the two schools’ commitment to reducing these types of crimes on our campuses—holding perpetrators accountable, and providing support and resources for victims,” Seguin said.
As part of an initiative to support victims of sexual assault on campus, the Wellness center has contracted Child Inc., a local nonprofit organization responsible for the domestic violence shelters in New Castle County and providing support groups and individual counseling for victims of intimate partner violence, Seguin said. The company will bring in a dating counselor, a service the Wellness Center has not provided before, she said.
Educating the campus community about sexual assault is key to addressing the issue, but that will not make the crimes stop altogether, Seguin said. Perpetrators exist in communities even if they are very aware, so the university needs a strong response policy, she said.
University Police Chief Patrick Ogden said sexual assaults, especially on college campuses, are grossly underreported. A popular misconception is that sexual assaults happen at random, but in the majority of sexual assault cases, the aggressor is a person the victim already knows, he said.
Ogden said as part of the Clery Act, the university police department is required to publish all the crime reports and the department must also review all crime that was on campus at the end of the year.
“We publish those numbers to say that there were three sexual assaults on campus, but for investigative purposes for the police we might only be aware of one of them, so it’s very underreported,” Ogden said.
Whether the crime is reported to the university police or the Newark Police Department depends on the location of the incident, Ogden said. If a sexual assault were to happen on campus, the university police would investigate it and if the assault happened at an off-campus location, then the Newark Police would investigate it, he said.
Since the act passed, officials who handle sexual assault cases need to receive annual training. Ogden said the first training session for all four police departments involved with cases for the university—campus police, Newark Police, Delaware State Police and Dover Police—will take place next Thursday, Ogden said.
Junior Jasmarie Preston said she believes the university police should make sexual assault incidents more aware to students. She said she feels she is unaware of how often sexual assaults happen to university students and hopes to be more informed in the future.
“It’s the university’s duty to make sure that the students feel safe and supported by the university and those in the hierarchy such as the university police, the president and the dean of their college should all be aware of how the person’s feeling,” Preston said. “If that person wants to go on to filing charges, they should be supportive of each aspect of that person’s choice.”
Some students may feel safe on campus and as a result “let their guard down,” Ogden said. The Campus SaVE Act is an important way to inform students that sexual assault crimes are still happening on campus as well as off, he said.
“I think one thing that it’s going to do is promote this whole notion that if something like this were to happen, it’s not that you did something wrong, you’re a victim,” Ogden said. “You should come forward and report it.”