Sexual assault victims have recourse

April is sexual assault awareness month and the Women’s Resource Center wants Portland State students to know that there are three ways to report sexual assault incidents on campus aside from calling 911.

April is sexual assault awareness month and the Women’s Resource Center wants Portland State students to know that there are three ways to report sexual assault incidents on campus aside from calling 911.

The Campus Public Safety Office crime log lists one incident of reported forcible rape on campus in calendar year 2009, one in 2008 and four in 2007. But, according to the National Institute of Justice Web site, “Reports of dating and sexual violence made to campus safety officials do not represent the incidence of sexual assault on college campuses.”

Sexual violence remains a vastly underreported crime and these incidents do not necessarily reflect the full scope of the problem.

Information from the WRC describes sexual assault as a nonconsensual sexual act, existing when there is no interest in mutuality, consent or concern by one person for the other.

“When the word ‘no’ is said, the game is over,” said CPSO Director Michael Soto. “The Residence Life judicial system works under the student conduct code which says that if alcohol is involved, there is no consent, whereas the law says you have to be drunk for it to mean ‘no.'”

Colleges across the country, such as Indiana University, are under fire for not taking proper action against those accused of sexual assault.

In February, National Public Radio announced that its investigative team collaborated with journalists at the Center for Public Integrity to examine “why colleges and universities fail to protect women from assault.”

The story focused on a woman from Indiana University who reported being raped in her dorm by a man who was later interviewed by campus police but not expelled.

According to the NPR report, “Even after reporting her rape to campus security, [she] found that schools often have limited ability to investigate these complex cases.”  

“Here at Portland State University we have always taken action,” said Soto. “And the cases are always reflected somewhere. No case gets buried.”

According to Soto, once a sexual assault incident is reported, the case goes to the Residence Life judicial system and the Dean of Students for investigation. The case then goes to CPSO, and if there is enough evidence, the case is taken to civil court.

“The student conduct judicial system works on preponderance [of evdence],” said Soto. “Conduct is a student affairs issue, and crime is a District Attorney issue.”

CPSO Officer J. Cronk said, “If the case is considered criminal, it still goes through student conduct,” If the victim agrees, an advocate of the Women’s Resource Center will escort them to Oregon Health and Science University to have a rape kit done. Then they will go to the sex crime detectives at the Portland Police Bureau for a series of interviews. The Jane Doe law secures the victim’s anonymity if he or she decides that a rape kit may be done. The medical center will keep the information on file for six months or until the victim decides to prosecute, according to Cronk.

“While we investigate your case, the suspect can be suspended from school. This does not mean they are guilty—it’s just for safety purposes,” Soto said.

The Women’s Resource Center can take victims to CPSO, the hospital and to campus housing and Residence Life to find a safe place to stay.

“We’re connected with the community and we want victims to feel comfortable,” said Soto. “We take care of our own from beginning to end.”

Officer Cronk advises students to “form a buddy system to stay safe” when going out to socialize.

“We want to make sure that people report these incidents—even if they’re not sure,” said Cronk, “Because the sooner you can report it, the sooner the suspect can be caught.”

Soto said, “We are pushing to get the rape kit at the Student Center for Health and Counseling.”

Jessica Amo, the Assistant Coordinator who oversees the WRC interpersonal violence program, said, “There are three different ways to report a sexual assault issue.”
-By anonymously by calling Campus Public Safety at 503-725-4404
-Submitting a formal criminal report to the Campus Public Safety Office
-Report a student conduct code violation via an online form available through the Dean of Students Web site:

 “We want people to know about the resources and feel safe accessing them,” she said.

April is sexual assault awareness month and this year’s theme is “Prevent sexual violence on our campuses.”

Information about upcoming events and how to stay safe: