Recent incidents ignite sexual assault discussions

Recently at Oswego State, a male student headed to the bar on Thursday night with his friends. There, he saw the female teacher assistant for one of the courses he was taking and began to have a friendly conversation with her.

During this time he was belligerently drunk. After spending time talking with his TA, he left for a calzone, only to be followed by the TA and her friend.

“Maybe I was too drunk to tell them where I live,” he said. “Then it became very apparent that she wanted to have sex with me. Her friend was hinting that we were going to have sex, kind of like a wing woman. So we were doing a tour of the house, so she was asking me to take off my clothes, to show off. Her friend showed me the bed where I was going to sleep. Her friend made the bed and I got in it, and then my TA came to the bed and got in it.”

The night left a bad taste in the victim’s mouth. When he woke up, he got his clothes on and she drove him home.

“I could taste cigarettes in my mouth for the rest of the day,” the victim said.  He did not attend the following class and slumped in bed for some five days.

On the campus of Oswego State, the latest University Police data shows that there were four rape investigations in 2012. This seems like a low number in relation to the population of students on campus. This is because often times, students do not speak up.

According to Lt. Matthew Barbeau, University Police mainly deals with campus crimes, as they are bound by the Memorandum of Understanding, which is an outline drawn up for districts, showing where departments have authority. Campus is considered to be the town of Oswego, not the city, and so, any crimes committed in downtown Oswego and off campus can be reported to UP, but will be dealt with by the Oswego Police Department.

When it comes to law enforcement, the only way to report a crime is for the victim to bring attention to the police. It cannot be a companion, friend or family member. The victim must report the crime him or herself.

The faster victims come forward to law enforcement, the greater chance police have to get evidence in support of the claim. When it comes to showering after an assault, “They advise against it,” Barbeau said. “You want that [evidence] as quickly as possible.”

Barbeau offered that often victims hold back information at first. “Shock plays in, doubt, victims are not sure what they should do or can do,” he said.

The first step in filing an offense is to begin by telling the story to an officer. They need to get all the information, including the date, time and any witnesses. They need a written deposition, which is a legal document, telling the story. From here, the process begins and the evidence starts to get collected. Officers will consult with the suspect, and the district attorney will make the decision.

Some students worry that if they make a report to the police, that their parents will be contacted. Barbeau said that if the victim were more than 18 years old, “We wouldn’t contact them. We’d make sure the victim gets in touch with a counselor at any time of day.  And because it’s an active investigation, we can’t say too much.”

As far as punishment, the University Police does not cover disciplinary issues.

“That would be up to the president’s office,” said Lt. Barbeau. “We don’t have any say in regards to punishment handed down to the suspect.”

If a student wanted to see records on who has been investigated, they cannot.

“We don’t hold records as far as convictions. Once we make the arrest, it goes to the DA’s office and town court,” Barbeau said. “After it leaves our office, we don’t have anything on file. The file only gets updated to show the deposition of the case. Guilty or not, it’s just for our records. We would know exactly what happened. We’ll update the case file. Jail time, parole, we’ll be made aware to update the case file.”

Barbeau also spoke on students who may be lying about sexual assault.

“Sometimes they are flat out lying,” Barbeau said. “Sometimes the victim may believe they have been a victim of sexual attack. They may have felt violated, but depending on the New York state penal law, they have not.”

Victims should keep in mind that even if time has passed, they can report sexual assault.

“Even if it happened a month ago, or a while back, they can still come report it,” Barbeau said. “Even if you don’t get a rape kit done, you can still come to us and report it.“

Barbeau added that Title IX can help assist students to get the services they need.

“Our department offers a women’s self-defense class. I was an instructor for 11 years. It’s for women only. No guys. It doesn’t matter your age,” Barbeau said.

Any female Oswego student can take the quarter course, which is offered for two hours once a week. Women come wearing athletic gear and learn how to fight and defend themselves from predators.

The victim said that he didn’t report his assault to anyone and that his friends thought it was cool. The victim said that his plan of action going forwad is to“just not think about it. Not bring it up. Or if it is brought up by anyone else, just pretend it’s a joke.”

“She has no idea that she is wrong,” the victim added. “I already told her that I just want to be friends. So I am just going to act friendly. I avoided her as much as I could. When she did talk to me I just acted friendly.”

Maria Grimshaw-Clark, at the counseling center located in Mary Walker Health Center, offered an explanation as to why many victims do not report their assaults.

“A lot of young women are too scared [to report sexual assault],” Grimshaw-Clark said. “Whether it’s retaliation, some think ‘It’s my fault. If my parents find out they will say I can’t go to school here anymore. That stigma that I don’t want people finding out.’ And we have some cases of young men. They think ‘I don’t want to be bothered by this.’ They believe it’s going to be a long and lengthy process. Even though we try to convince them there’s a ton of support here and we will run interference. They don’t believe that.”

Females are the main target group when the discussion arises about rape. The stigma goes that a stranger attacks a vulnerable woman on an empty street corner. But acquaintance rape, like what happened to the male victim, is much more common than stranger rape.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a stranger commits one in five rapes. In all the other cases, the victim knew the attacker. The BJS also states that rapists are more likely than other criminals to rape again after released from prison.

“It’s an embarrassment [for young men] especially for someone heterosexual who was a victim to a male,” Grimshaw-Clark said. “Calling into question their own orientation. ‘What did I do that made this person think I was interested in them and wanted sex?’”

To encompass all sexualities, Grimshaw-Clark spoke on victims that are homosexual.

“There’s still that fear of coming in and talking about their [students’] orientation,” Grimshaw-Clark said. “I have students who think we have a connection to their parents and we’re going to tell. If you’re 18 or older, I can’t tell anyone. It’s about building trust with the campus. I would love more involvement with LGBT. We do a lot of outreach with student groups on campus.”

Because many students are finding themselves in a similar situation to the victim, it is important to know that all cases of rape are treated the same, independent to what the student consumed during the event. However, Grimshaw-Clark emphasizes keeping from being drunk, as it releases one’s inhibitions.

“It’s not treated differently,” Grimshaw-Clark said. “It doesn’t matter how much the person has willingly ingested versus someone who was drugged. The cases are treated the same. There’s no blame. We try to encourage men and women to understand that you didn’t bring this on. You’re a witness. We don’t want you to see yourself as a victim for all your life. That ranges from ongoing therapy to being an advocate to a hearing or court system. If a student can’t focus because they’re going through stuff, sometimes we interface with a professor and say the student can’t focus. Most professors are cool about accommodating. It’s far reaching in helping students out.”

Grimshaw-Clark gave her advice for students going out to socialize.

“Don’t leave the house without everybody,” Grimshaw-Clark said. “That coincides with bystander law as well as any kind of personal safety sexual assault training. That’s the message we’d like to get out because people don’t want to hear that.”

She also mentions that going out with friends is fun, but a student should pick the people to go with that will support good decisions.

“Be with people you can trust,” Grimshaw-Clark said. “You can have a great time without alcohol but if you choose, you can still have a great time, but don’t get drunk. Because once you become inebriated, all bets are off and you can lose control and some reactions are angry and violent some are funny, some fall asleep, so you need to be aware and mindful of what you’re doing. When you’re able to be aware of that, that will help you have the faculty to say no. If you say no, and it still happens, have people around you that can help you say a louder no.”