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Women’s Center offers resources for sexual assault victims

Staff Writer

Published: Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 16:08

In light of Amherst College facing scrutiny for its poor handling of numerous sexual assault cases, UConn has made sure to have a large variety of resources and programs specifically on prevention for sexual assault victims.

Five to 15 victims of sexual assault are reported to the Women’s Center per semester according to the director of the Women’s Center, Kathleen Holgerson. In 2011 there were 14 reports submitted related to sexual assault. Holgerson believes that there are many unreported sexual assaults so the number of incidents could be higher. Also there are other community response teams that students can report to when facing sexual assault crisis or other personal incidents including community standards, residential life and the Office of Student Services and Advocacy.

“We provide advocacy, support and empowerment to sexual assault victims,” said Holgerson. “We create a space for their needs and to talk about what happen, share information on their options, and support whatever choices they make.”

Karen L. Bresciano, the associate director of the office of services and advocacy explained that their office helps students reach out to instructors in order to provide understanding when a student is a victim of sexual assault. They help coordinate with professors so students do not fall behind on classes and if necessary rearrange their school schedule if the perpetrator is in the class.

“It’s important that the victim feels safe,” said Bresciano. “We also help them connect with other services.”

As of January 2011 UConn has emplaced a sexual assault response policy with the purpose to assist university employees in responding to reports of sexual assault. The policy continues to make sure that there is a timely and comprehensive response. The full outline of the policy can be found online.

Amherst College is currently in hot water for the way they handle sexual assault cases, in large part due to a student-written column about her experience when reporting she was raped. Amherst has faced years of misconduct with how poorly victims are treated and their new president, Carolyn A. Martin, plans to revise the Amherst approach.

UConn has made sure to have many resources that students can turn to when reporting sexual assault or other incidents involving sexual misconduct. This array of resources all differ depending on the student’s comfort zone as well.

Holgerson continued to explain that there are incident reports filled out by community response teams in order to trace the trends on campus, however they are not made public to protect the privacy of the victims.

UConn’s primary focus with these programs and community response teams is prevention, would be the best-case scenario according to Holgerson. She furthered explained how employees in the Women’s Center have an obligation to report sexual assault but that information will remain private if reported.

The university also follows Title IX, a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on the gender of employees and students. It also prohibits sexual harassment and sexual violence. In the office of diversity and equity, individuals can file a complaint against the university if they believe they have been discriminated against based on sex, as well as if they have been victims of sexual assault or sexual violence.

The Women’s Center also offers many other programs such as VAWPP (Violence Against Women Prevention Program) and their website offers a list of emergency contacts and other emergency response teams that students could call for immediate assistance. 

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