Sexual Safety an Ongoing Campus Concern

The Campus Police regularly participate in student-organized safety awareness events. Officer Jon Martinez speaks to a crowd at the recent Slut Walk, a rape awareness march. Photograph: Paul Anthony George

With more than 18,000 students attending the University of Nevada, Reno, including more than 2,000 living on campus,  safety, including sexual assault, remains an issue of importance for students and staff at the university.

“We do not have any cases of sexual assault by strangers,” said UNR Campus Police Cmdr. Todd Renwick. “Of the four to six reports per year, pretty much all of them are date rape types of sexual assault.”

But Renwick adds that only a third of all sexual assaults are reported. “Most victims,” Renwick said, “do not report due to embarrassment or they do not want to go through court proceedings, having to testify in court.”

Listen to an interview with Commander Renwick:

Police Services and UNR have programs to protect, educate and assist students with campus safety. Along with regular patrols, Renwick said, the police participate in student safety and awareness activities such as the recent Slut Walk. The department also publishes brochures about campus safety and these are available in the lobby of the Police Services office in the Student Services Building.

UNR’s Campus Escort program began in 1984 as a service that walked students and staff to their cars or classes. Now the program is made up of eight vans, giving students and staff rides up to two miles from the campus perimeter.

“The purpose of the program is to increase safety and offer a safe transportation alternative for students and staff,” said Program Coordinator Chris Partridge.

Some students have complained, however, that the service sometimes takes up to 45 minutes to arrive. Partridge said that delays are on the rise and the department is addressing the issue. Last semester, according to Partridge, the Campus Escort gave 33,500 rides, the department’s largest demand ever.

“It can get overwhelming,” Partridge said, adding that the department’s goal is to reach passengers within 10 to 15 minutes from the time they call for a ride.

Another preventative measure taken by the university are the “blue light” emergency phones installed throughout the campus. With the touch of a button, the station places a call to a 911 dispatch.

“They have low activity, but serve as a deterrent,” Renwick said. “However, they have been helpful for medical emergencies.”

UNR’s Police Services also offers a self-defense course for women called Rape Aggression Defense. This national program features certified trainers and is available to women on campus.  According to UNR’s Web page for the program, it is a free 12-hour course. However, students can pay for a one-credit course that meets weekly.

Another program UNR offers is a counseling program called Personal Safety and Sexual Assault Prevention. According to its Web page, the program offers confidential counseling with mental health professionals, advocacy, and “workshops and classroom presentations on sexual violence prevention, personal safety awareness, healthy dating relationships, and the impact of alcohol and drugs on issues of sexual consent.”

The programs offered by UNR and the campus Police Services educate, protect and defend the student body from sexual assault and campus violence.

Police Services recently released its annual report about security and safety on campus. According to the report, the number of reported sexual assaults declined in 2010. There was one reported case that year, compared to six cases in 2008 and four cases in 2009.

But for any victim of sexual crimes, the statistics do not matter. The Crisis Call Center, a nonprofit organization, assists people with suicide hotlines, domestic violence counseling and many other personal safety issues, including sexual assault.

“We provide emotional support and a forensic examination. It is completely free. We have very high confidentiality. We are protected like a priest or a psychologist,” said the center’s Sexual Assault Support Services Program Assistant Tina Schweizer.

The victim, Schweizer said, can choose whether or not to report the incident to the authorities. However, cases where the victim is under 18 years old must be reported to law enforcement.

Statistics provided by Schweizer state that the rate of sexual assault in Nevada is higher than the national average. The statistics show that 20 to 25 percent of women attending college experience sexual assault during their college career. However, UNR continues to show a decline in cases of sexual crime.

Renwick expressed satisfaction with the programs that are in place.

“We have a pretty good educational safety component on campus.”

©  Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

Related Articles:

Slut Walk Brings Rape Awareness to Campus

Safety Contacts

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