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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Brandeis to hire new sexual assault counselor

Published: September 20, 2013
Section: News

Hordes of students make the hike from Brandeis campus to Dartmouth Street every weekend. Laughing, they wind their way into fraternity housing, parties in cramped basements. Most spill out onto the lawn, chatting with their friends, before returning home to Brandeis.
Last semester, the image of this seemingly serene scene was disrupted, with the horrific news that allegations of sexual assault were under investigation. The incident occurred at a fraternity house party the weekend of Jan. 18-20.
This semester, Brandeis faculty has begun interviewing for a new position in the Division of Students and Enrollment: a Sexual Assault Services and Prevention Specialist. With interviews held this week and the next, this sexual assault counselor will be a resource for students, faculty and staff and increase programming and training about sexual assault. In addition to creating this position, Dean of Student Life Jamele Adams reports Brandeis has made even more efforts to address the problem of sexual assault.
“With the latest conference being held at our campus, having annual assessment and revision of the Rights and Responsibilities, being responsive and inclusive to our students, we continue to position ourselves to improve upon that which has been in place previously,” said Adams.
Many Brandeis students believe that Brandeis’ current handling of sexual assault may have stemmed from January’s alleged case, as the incident garnered much media attention. When asked why Brandeis may be hiring a sexual assault counselor, Gabby Drillich ’15 replied, “I am guessing because of what happened last year.” Drillich, a member of the varsity swim team, mentioned a program about sexual assault awareness that was made available for athletes right after January’s incident.
In addition to this case, in 2012, The Hoot reported on a story where a female undergraduate student was allegedly raped by a Heller School student at their off campus apartment nearly a dozen times. The Brandeis police website reports two cases of forcible sexual advances in 2011, the most recent year that data is available. But many cases may go unreported.
“I do think situations of sexual misconduct go unreported for multiple reasons. In no particular order, I think there is shame and embarrassment associated with an act of misconduct, no one really wants to get someone “in trouble,” the stigma attached to it, peer pressure, reliving a traumatic event, uncertainty of whether or not it was an act of misconduct, and these are just a few reasons,” Maggie Balch, Associate Dean of Student Life said.
But Brandeis is taking a firm stance on this topic.
“One sexual assault is one too many; and any occurrence should be reported,” Adams said. Director of Public Safety Ed Callahan echoes this message: “If you have one incident, that is one too many. A zero tolerance as far as these sort of situations go … it should not be tolerated.”
Callahan is on the committee to fill the position for the sexual assault counselor. “We’re looking for someone who can provide a lot of training during orientation, training for faculty and staff to enlighten them about domestic violence … the ideal person would be someone that all the departments can reach out to … so students and community members would feel comfortable with this person and be able to impart relative information, anything that is of concern,” said Callahan.
Director of Athletics Sheryl Sousa, and chair of the search committee for the sexual assault counselor, states both students and staff were active in interviewing candidates.
“Campus-wide involvement from students, faculty and staff has been integral throughout the process. All three constituencies were represented on the search committee and all three groups have met with candidates when they visited campus,” said Sousa.
As the search continues to find the perfect person to fill the position, faculty suggest that there are many options for Brandeis students who are seeking help.
“Students should know that all members of the community (students, faculty and staff) are concerned about sexual misconduct and are interested in helping any reporting parties that come forward,” said Balch. She mentioned sources such as Community Living, the ICC, Student Activities, the Dean of Student Life, Student Rights and Community Standards, Public Safety, Community Service, the Health and Psychological Counseling centers, the Chaplains, the Title IX coordinator and more.
Callahan reports that while not everyone feels comfortable going to the police with an allegation of sexual assault, the case may often filter down to Public Safety. “We have trained sexual assault investigators that can interact with victims and survivors and unveil the different processes to members of the community, file a police report, an anonymous report, however they want to proceed with things,” he said. He also mentioned services like restraining orders, harassment protection orders and mental health assistance.
But as the new counselor is appointed, the first thing he or she may wish to examine is Brandeis students’ awareness of this topic, and whether they even know the definition of sexual assault.
“How can you tell the difference between someone just touching you at a frat party and sexual assault?” asked Drillich.