Local colleges respond to issue of sexual assault taking nationa - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Local colleges respond to issue of sexual assault taking national stage

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Both WSU and Gonzaga have a no tolerance policy when it comes to sexual assault. Both WSU and Gonzaga have a no tolerance policy when it comes to sexual assault.
SPOKANE, Wash. -

Whether it's a big, public school like Washington State University, or a small, private school like Gonzaga University, right now, students and administrators are talking about the scary frequency of sexual assaults on college campuses.

"This is part of the landscape of higher education right now, unfortunately" said Eric Baldwin, the Dean of Student Well-Being and Healthy Living at Gonzaga University. "Everyone agrees - sexual assault, rape, anything that dehumanizes someone is abhorrent, so every school is dealing with it."

And the article published by the Rolling Stone magazine about a gang rape at a fraternity party at the University of Virginia pushed the conversation about sexual assault and gender based violence into the national spotlight.

"I read the article," said Lakecia Farmer, a student at WSU. "She [the girl in the article, referred to as 'Jackie'] talked how she just walked through a party and nobody said or did anything. I think it's so plausible because I've seen it happen here on our campus."

Within the last week, Rolling Stone retracted the article, saying that certain facts are possibly not totally true.

But, the bigger picture still remains - there is a strong feeling that what was described in the Rolling Stone story could happen at schools across the country, forcing many schools to take a closer look at their policies in dealing with sexual assault.

"If Gonzaga had the perfect policy," explained Brittany Clark, a Gonzaga student, "everyone would be copying us. It doesn't exist."

Both WSU and Gonzaga have a no tolerance policy when it comes to sexual assault. Students are encouraged to report cases and each schools gives victims counseling and makes sure to clearly explain to each student what their options are in terms of if they want to proceed with their case or an investigation.

"If sexual assault were as cut or dried as a cheating, it'd be a less difficult process," explained Dean Baldwin. "But it very rarely is as cut and dry...The end result could be the same, but how you got there are very very different, and that's why it's so difficult because every case is so different."

"We know sexual assault is occurring on our campus," said Kimberly Anderson, WSU Director of Office of Equal Opportunity & Title IX Coordinator. "Our goal is to create an environment where students are comfortable reporting."

And, students at both schools were discussing this issue before this particular article even came out.

"Students here this semester have expressed they want to talk about rape culture and hookup culture," said Clark. "And what it means in the context of Gonzaga and we want to talk about consent and what it means when consent isn't respected."

The media uproar surrounding the Rolling Stone article is bound to dissipate in the coming weeks and months, but many students and administrators will continue this conversation at their schools loud and clear.

"I think students need to think about this because it is happening on campuses across the country," said Amber Morczek, a WSU PhD Candidate studying Criminology with a focus in gender based violence. "Students need to think about how they'd help a friend and also preventing this from happening."

"I think it's an issue here," said Farmer. It doesn't mean we are not trying to change it, or we are not trying to make sure our survivors are supported or to make sure we have bystander intervention; but, it's still an issue, we are still talking about it, and trying to figure out solutions.

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