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Student senate discusses sexual assault policy

| Thursday, October 6, 2016

As sexual assault continues to pose an imminent threat across the nation, members of the student senate heard from Notre Dame deputy Title IX coordinator Heather Ryan on Wednesday night.

“Sexual assault is a national issue, and Title IX does not just apply to college campuses,” Ryan said. “We’ve heard about these things. We hear about Brock Turner. We hear about Baylor in the news. Let’s be honest, we’ve heard about us too, with the Hunting Ground. People here are impacted.”

Ryan said her job is to be there for any student facing the impacts of sexual assault.

“When we look at our community and talk about being the University of Notre Dame and the Notre Dame family — I mean who hasn’t heard of that? — but we look at all of that, and we aren’t doing enough,” Ryan said. “When we say we’re going to be compliant to these Title IX rules, that is not nearly enough.”

After the results of the Campus Climate Survey were released last year, Ryan said she was saddened by the outcome.

“We know that our students and members of our family are harmed,” Ryan said. “We know that 6 percent of our women have experienced non-consensual penetration. We know that 2 percent of our men have experienced non-consensual penetration.”

Ryan said this is an issue that affects everyone on campus.

“I need you to hear that this is not just a women’s issue. This is not just a straight person’s issue. This is all of our issues,” she said. “We need to figure out how to take care of one another. If we’re going to say we’re a family, we’re going to need to figure out how to take care of each other.”

Additionally, Ryan said the system for reporting sexual assaults has gotten better, though she feels most people are not aware of all the details.

“If someone makes a report about sexual assault, we do not care if they were drinking underage or there was a parietals violation,” she said. “No one will send something to Community Standards, please know that. We want to make sure that the person is OK, and the person is safe. This policy has been in place for five years, and most people don’t know that.”

Most assaults are reported by a third party, Ryan said.

“Almost 80 percent of our reports are from third parties because a lot of people are telling their friends and not knowing that they’re mandatory reporters,” she said. “So we’re trying to make sure people know how to report, and [that] they have some choice in how it gets reported.”

While many assaults are getting reported, senators said they felt it was disconcerting they have not gotten emails from the Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP) regarding any sexual assaults this year.

“There was an incident earlier this year where an assault was reported, but we never got any email about it, and I was just wondering why that didn’t happen,” junior Paul Stevenson said.

Ryan said the decision to send an email alert is made by NDSP.

“I don’t want to speak for NDSP because they determine on specific issues on what comes out,” Ryan said. “I will share with you that a lot of the time that the complainant is often worried about that timely warning going out because they’re worried that their name will be attached to that.”

Sophomore Brittany Benninger, representing Cavanaugh Hall, asked what the specific time frame is when determining what constitutes a “timely threat” on campus, for which students receive an email alert.

“I don’t know what the time frame is, but it’s usually five to six days,” Ryan said. “But it’s not always time — sometimes it’s who’s involved, or where it happened or was there a weapon involved.”

The punishment across the board for non-consensual penetration has been permanent dismissal, Ryan said. For less severe cases, or while the investigation is going on, there may be a ban in place preventing someone from being able to enter a dorm.

“We typically email the rectors and say so-and-so is not permitted to enter this dorm,” Ryan said.

Sophomore Jade Martinez, the Flaherty Hall senator, said the student involved should have his or her swipe access revoked from that dorm, which is not a policy currently in place.

“We really do want to bring a focus to the swipe access thing,” Martinez said. “We do know that there are ways to make sure someone cannot get into a dorm, and that should be something we can deal with.”

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About Rachel O'Grady

Rachel O'Grady is a senior Political Science major living in Ryan Hall and is currently serving as an Assistant Managing Editor. Hailing from Chicago (actual Chicago, not the suburbs) she's been a Cubs fan since birth.

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