BALOG COLUMN: Stepping up sexual-assault prevention efforts
It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: Preventing sexual assault is everyone’s business.
The ongoing coverage of the alleged sex assault of a College of Charleston student by four baseball players on campus this year has brought a variety of issues to light.
Should Charleston police investigate sex assaults on the college’s campus?
They should certainly not be prevented from doing so, which is one way the current law is being interpreted. Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen says they’re willing to step in but can’t right now. Legislators have promised to rectify that, and it’s up to the citizens to make sure they follow through.
That’s not a knock on the college’s Public Safety Department. Those folks have enough to do, and they do a lot of things right.
The college also has a comprehensive slate of safety initiatives that includes several sexual-assault-awareness programs, as well as an online alcohol-awareness and education program that all incoming students must complete.
Gathering the tools
When Charleston police released their 2011 crime report at the beginning of this year, one of the things they said they wanted to do was work on ways to address the number of sex assaults.
They spent the better part of 2012 working toward that goal, with the help of folks from the National Crime Victims Center at MUSC, People Against Rape and the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program. In 2013 they’re going to roll out a three-pronged approach.
There’s already some outreach with the college and The Citadel during freshman orientation, but this will be a more targeted approach.
Education and outreach
As Mullen explained, they’ll work to educate potential victims, potential perpetrators and bystanders.
Yes, bystanders. It’s not a crime to be a bystander, though in this particular case it was certainly a moral offense that ought to carry a more severe punishment than a 10-page term paper.
“You can prevent someone from becoming a victim and having a traumatic experience that’s going to affect them for the rest of their lives,” Mullen said.
That’s pretty powerful.
There also will be a men’s program, Mullen said, to drive home the point that “if someone is very highly intoxicated, it isn’t possible for them to consent to sexual acts.”
It will also address the signals that people give off when they’ve had a lot to drink, or too much to drink.
The third program is a dating program so that people can understand how risks can be increased, and how they can be avoided.
There’s more to it, of course. Police will work with bar owners to educate their staffs about being more vigilant, and how to intervene to prevent a potential crime if necessary.
None of this will change what’s already happened, nor will it change how the college responded.
But it certainly reflects a growing awareness and a commitment to change.
Reach Melanie Balog at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-5565.