Staying silent, feeling alone
A Drake University first-year female student reported that she was sexually assaulted early Sunday morning, according to a Des Moines police report.
Although the police report did not indicate which residence hall the sexual assault took place, sources told “The Times-Delphic” that it occurred in the Goodwin-Kirk Residence Hall Complex. Drake officials, however, will not confirm this information.
Des Moines police met with the 18-year-old assault victim at 6:50 a.m. Sunday morning at Mercy Medical Center. The victim declined to answer questions, only providing her name and birth date. A sexual assault kit was collected and picked up.
Dean of Students Sentwali Bakari said that he would not comment extensively on the incident, as it might compromise the privacy of the alleged victim and perpetrator.
“I am consulting and working with Des Moines police, Drake Security and the Student Life staff to try to investigate this as best as we can without putting names out there to make it more difficult for some of the people that may be involved in this,” he said. “We’re not sitting on this—we’re looking into it.”
Both Drake Security and Bakari notified President David Maxwell before 9 a.m. Sunday morning about the reported sexual assault. Maxwell said that the victim was made aware of all of the resources the university provides to sexual assault victims, but said he would not comment further out of respect for the victim’s privacy.
This reported sexual assault comes just a week before the first meeting of the Task Force on Sexual Assault and Coercion—a group that Provost Michael Renner has created to tackle this issue. The task force, which includes several students and faculty members, will have its first meeting next Wednesday. Maxwell is expected to open the session, designating a charge and organizational tasks for the group.
Maxwell said that the group is operating under the basic assumptions that incidents of sexual assault and coercion take place at Drake and that they are underreported. He also said that the university makes considerable efforts to educate students about these issues through Welcome Weekend and programming in residence halls, Greek life and athletics.
“The issue is that this is a systemic issue that derives from a number of factors, including the social infrastructure,” he said. “It has to do with student cultural norms and perceptions about social status and acceptance.”
Maxwell said that he expects a report by May 1 with proposed solutions and recommendations that address the broader systemic issues that he referred to earlier that he and his cabinet would tackle.
“The university has an obligation to do whatever we can to educate students about these issues, to do whatever we can to create an environment that minimizes the likelihood that it will happen and, when they do, provide the appropriate and necessary support to victims and the appropriate and necessary response to perpetrators,” he said. “But the issue is broader than education.”
He said that these issues cannot be solely on the shoulders of the administration; rather, that the community has an obligation to play a role in the solutions.
“Ultimately, whatever efforts we make, it will only be successful if students take ownership and responsibility for the fact that this is an issue, and ownership and responsibility for finding the solutions, and ownership and responsibility for the implementation of the solutions,” he said.
Amanda Krafft, a senior English and philosophy double-major, is one of the students who will sit on the task force. She said she will speak openly and in brutal honesty during the meetings, hoping the committee will produce real solutions.
“There are things here that are really important that people are not really considering, and that’s mainly the safety of students physically, mentally, socially and emotionally,” she said. “According to statistics that I’ve looked up, Drake is really, really low on the reporting end.”
Krafft says that according to the National Institute of Justice, three percent of college women are raped on an average campus each school year, which equates to nearly 57 undergraduate women at Drake. Considering the amount of reported sexual assaults has not even reached double-digits in the last two years, Krafft said that people should be concerned with unreported sexual assaults.
“It doesn’t bother me that people don’t report it because I can understand not reporting a rape,” she said. “What bothers me is that because it’s not reported, people think it doesn’t happen, and it does.”
Hans Hanson, director of Drake Security, said that his main concern stems from surveys that indicate a large number of sexual assaults remain unreported. Some years zero cases are reported to security, but he said he knows that more occur.
“Drake is like universities of our size, maybe even lower,” he said. “But in private universities, we’re about in the same area of assaults that actually get reported to the security department.”
Hanson and Maxwell said the issue of unreported sexual assaults is one of the main charges for the task force.
A Drake student, who wished to remain anonymous, said that she was sexually assaulted last year and decided not to go to the police.
After a night of drinking with friends, she overestimated her tolerance and became intoxicated. Around 2 a.m., she went to a male student’s room and they started kissing.
“Eventually we went to the bed and took our clothes off,” she said. “I just wanted to make out. He then started trying to have sex with me. I kept saying, ‘No. I don’t want to have sex. Stop.’”
The male student refused to listen to the victim as she eventually started to lose consciousness.
“I tried to stay awake, but the alcohol had affected me too much,” she said. “The last thing I remember was pushing his hips away from me, but he was a strong guy. And for as much as I tried to push him away, I was definitely not strong enough—he didn’t get any farther from me at all; he only got closer. I then blacked out and woke up in the morning. I still have no idea if he had sex with me or not. From the looks of it, it is likely he did. But I never asked.”
She took the Plan B pill the next morning and said she hasn’t talked to the male student since the incident. She said the event left her feeling disgusted and ashamed for putting herself in that situation.
“I didn’t want to tell anyone because they would think I was a slut,” she said. “I had not wanted to have sex. I still think it was my fault for being in that setting. I’m mad that I got so drunk and I’m mad that he didn’t listen.”
She said she thinks that unreported sexual assaults happen often and that it’s scary for any victim to let others know it took place.
“It’s so easy for date rape to happen,” she said. “The girl gets too drunk and the guy goes too far. I didn’t report anything, so I bet this kind of thing is much more common than people think.”
Laurie Linhart, professor of sociology, said that performing a sexual assault kit at the hospital the next morning can be a humiliating experience for women—one of the reasons she said women might be reluctant to report an assault.
“Their bodies have been invaded once and to go through the process of the sexual assault investigation is really an invasive process again,” she said. “It’s almost like their victimized twice.”
Linhart said that another reason that women might not report a sexual assault is because they want to forget about the experience as soon as possible.
“If they do report it, it continues to be front-and-center in their minds,” she said.
Planned Parenthood, she said, provides an environment that is more comfortable for the victim to undergo a sexual assault kit, likening it to a private, home-like setting. Linhart said that the new task force should look into the resources they have to offer.
Linhart also said that women sometimes feel that they are at fault for leading the perpetrator on before the sexual assault took place.
“‘No’ should mean no,” she said. “Alcohol may be involved and the lines can get really blurry, and I think women have always felt like they’ve done something wrong.”
Bakari said that he agrees that it is important that victims come forward and that the university becomes a place where victims feel comfortable to confide in authority figures after they’ve been assaulted.
“One of the challenges for the task force is to create an environment, as best as we possibly can, that those who are sexually assaulted to feel comfortable in coming forward so that they don’t feel it’s a second form of victimization by coming forward,” he said. “They shouldn’t feel ashamed; they don’t feel the peer pressure and they don’t feel that alcohol was involved and that they’re in trouble. We have to talk that out.”