Sexual assault on MSU’s campus

This was written for my JRN 300 class in November 2009.

The cafeteria is empty. The last lights are turned out and the few remaining employees walk out, eager to get some rest. For many employees, this just requires going upstairs to their dorm room. But, for Alison VanderWall, heading home is just not that simple.

Elementary education sophomore VanderWall, 19, works in the Holmes cafeteria but lives in Van Hoosen Hall. She usually finds her self having to work until almost 1 a.m. at least once a week. While VanderWall loves living in Van Hoosen, walking back from work she is in fear of one thing: sexual assault.

“I try not to walk alone at night,” said VanderWall. “I usually go with another girl or a guy.”

Sexual assault is a grim reality for women on campuses across the country. Fortunately for MSU students, campus police are working to help victims and raise awareness for sexual assault.

“We do presentations. Mentors ask us to speak to residents. We work with the counseling center and raise awareness for out Sexual Assault Response Guarantee program,” said MSU Police Sergeant Florene McGlothian-Taylor.

The Sexual Assault Response Guarantee is a program run by the MSU police. The program has 10 principles, which include a guarantee that police will meet the victim anywhere in the Lansing or East Lansing area where they feel comfortable, said McGlothian-Taylor.

“Even one sexual assault is too many,” said McGlothian-Taylor. “That is why we have the program.”

As mentioned above by McGlothian-Taylor, the MSU police work closely with the MSU Sexual Assault Program (SAP). The SAP is part of the MSU counseling service and provides a 24-hour crisis hotline, medical advocacy, legal advocacy, counseling, support groups, an educational program and volunteer and internship opportunities, said SAP’s Advocacy Coordinator Lauren Allswede.

“Our program provides a crucial service to MSU and the greater Lansing community,” said Allswede. “We are able to provide immediate crisis intervention and, through empowerment and empathy, help facilitate a healthy recovery.”

Both the SAP and the MSU police work on a committee called Response Review Initiative. On this committee, various campus organizations and departments converse about sexual assault and relationship violence, said Allswede.

“Through collaboration and discussion, we hope to identify strengths and weaknesses within our community and ultimately improve the university’s response to sexual assault,” said Allswede.

Not all women at MSU are concerned with sexual assault. Biochemistry and molecular biology senior Erin Vegter, 23, said the possibility of sexual assault never really crosses her mind. She rarely ever walks around by herself at night, so there is not a reason to worry, said Vegter.

Animal science sophomore Chelsea Pike, 19, said she also uses common sense when walking around campus, so she has not reason to worry.

“I don’t know anyone who has been assaulted, nor am I paranoid about it,” said Pike.

It would be good, though, if the lights on campus actually worked, said Pike.

No matter how scared students are, MSU police and the SAP are working to raise awareness about sexual assault and encourage victims to come forward, said Allswede.

“Sexual assault is the number one unreported crime and only two to four percent of reports filed with police are false,” said Allswede. “When someone comes forward, we need to take them seriously.”

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