AUBURN, Ala. — An Auburn University student reports she was sexually assaulted over the weekend in a school dorm room by someone she knew. The student says she was incapacitated.
The university says it is difficult to investigate due to the limited information and since she did not file a formal report report with the university or police. The university says it is the survivor’s choice whether or not to file a formal report.
Associate Director in the Department of Public Safety and Security Susan McCallister says the university takes these reports very seriously when they come in, and they will continue to do so. The university encourages individuals to file reports initially so evidence can be collected before it is gone.
McCallister says information can come in from a variety of sources about the incidents. She says there are also different personnel to deal with specific issues. She says the university’s Title IX office has responsible and confidential employees.
There is also a small group considered confidential called Safe Harbor Advocates who provide resources and support for sexual assault survivors.
“There is support, regardless of when the assault took place and whether or not the survivor chooses to report the incident,” says Melissa McConaha, Coordinator of Student Programs in the Office of Heath Promotion and Wellness Services. “Safe Harbor is Auburn University’s 24/7, free, and confidential advocacy organization for anyone affiliated with Auburn University who is impacted by power-based personal violence (e.g., sexual assault, interpersonal violence, stalking, harassment).
“As a survivor-centered organization, our primary responsibilities include providing immediate support to the degree with which survivors are comfortable, discussing reporting options and services available, facilitating referrals, and assisting survivors with the options they choose. We partner with both campus and community organizations to assist survivors as needed while protecting survivors’ privacy.”
McCallister says if a formal report is made, an investigation is conducted, with both sides being heard and the office determines if the accused is responsible for their behavior. She continues the university holds those found responsible accountable for their actions. Disciplinary actions could include expulsion and potential criminal charges.
“We don’t think that there is a predator out there preying on students,” McCallister says.” “We know that sexual assault happens on college campuses, and by being aware of the types of assaults that happen and by learning to step in and step up when someone sees inappropriate behavior, I think we can really change the culture and reduce these incidents.”
The university says statistics show almost 90% of all completed or attempted rapes on campuses are committed by acquaintances.
The alert sent out to students following the alleged incident reiterated the following points:
“Having sex with someone who is incapacitated is against the law and is a felony. Alcohol is the most common drug used to facilitate sexual assault. It is important for all those involved in a sexual act to give consent; consent is a clear and sober “yes,” which is given freely. Rape is never the victim’s fault, and it can happen to anyone regardless of their demographics.”
The university provided guidelines in the event you are the victim of a sexual assault, and they are as follows:
“Preserve the evidence (no shower or change clothes). Dial 911 for emergency assistance or immediately go to the nearest hospital in the area.
East Alabama Medical Center is located at 2000 Pepperell Parkway in Opelika where medical care and a rape kit can be done.
The options in terms of reporting include: Dialing 911, Auburn Police at 334-501-3100, Auburn University’s Title IX Coordinator at 334-844-4794, Safe Harbor at 334-844-7233 or firstname.lastname@example.org and the Rape Counselors of East Alabama at 334-705-0510.”