The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Campus seeks to improve resources for sexual assault victims: there are no easy answers or quick fixes

Do you ever wonder about the safety of our campus? How about violence? Or sexual assault?

I never did. That is, until I read an article from Amherst University’s student newspaper written by a student who was raped on campus.

That in itself is heartbreaking enough, but what really upset me was that the student received no help from her school. Instead of receiving proper counseling, the campus police took her to a psychiatric ward because they believed she was mentally unstable.

This unjust treatment made me wonder what Guilford does for victims of sexual assault. I started searching for information so I could compare Guilford and Amherst.

I can happily say our school scores very well to compared Amherst. We have a club devoted to the issue, Sexual Assault Awareness Support and Advocacy, as well as a Survivors of Sexual Assault group. We have an on-campus counselor for victims who need to and are prepared to talk. We also have an anonymous reporting form for those who are not ready to come forward personally, but still want the school to know.

However, we lack community support for victims and reporting. There are several ways in which we can improve this.

In fact, many people on campus are seeking to improve the services we already offer and to resolve the problems that are occurring. A big player in this is the Violence Prevention Advisory Committee.

“Our mission is to educate the campus about the nature of violence and harassment and provide support,” said committee member Julie Winterich, associate professor of sociology and anthropology.

In that mission statement, Winterich touched on one of the major ways in which our college can improve: education.

For first-years like myself, we went to a comedic show during orientation about sexual activity in college that touched on assault, but the issue has not been brought up again in a way that is specific to our school. Because of this, I had to search for information on what is offered, instead of the institution giving it to me.

All students should be told this information, so that if a student becomes a victim, he/she, or a friend already knows what resources are available.

Winterich suggested that classes should be offered on sexual behaviors, or that information about what our school offers sexual assault victims should be integrated into First-Year Experience courses.

I wholeheartedly agree. Education can replace ignorance and fear.

Students can also help increase our reporting rate. About one-fourth of female college students are sexually assaulted. As much as I would like to believe that Guilford is an exception to this, we probably aren’t. Sexual assaults are rarely reported on our campus. According to Sandra Bowles, director of student judicial affairs, the last judicial case regarding assault was four or five years ago.

Sexual assault traumatizes victims in an incomprehensible way, so it is understandable that coming forward would terrify victims. It is also understandable if a student knows a fellow student was assaulted, it might be uncomfortable to encourage the victim to report it or to do so themselves, even anonymously. But until victims or people who know about assault come forward, our institution can’t improve what it offers.

This is where money comes in.

Both students and staff want improvements in what our school offers victims. However, until more people are willing to report cases of assault, the school can’t get more funding because it appears as if we don’t have a need for it. Because we can’t improve, people don’t want to report.

Can you see this cycle?

I’m grateful that our school does offer services and support for victims of sexual assault, but there is room for improvement.

There’s no easy answer as to what should be done or what can be done, but Winterich explained the best place to start: “We need a community that supports reporting and takes the burden off the victim.”

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About the Contributor
Allison Debusk, Editor-in-Chief
English and Political Science majors,  American History minor
Allison loves coordinating all of the different parts of the newspaper and getting to see the words, photos, graphics and videos all combine to make one product. She also loves serving the Guilford community and reflecting the feelings and perspectives of our community. She always wears pink on Wednesdays.

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