The UD Bubble isn’t as safe as we pretend

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Photo by Peter Sampson

A note from the editor:

The University News does not generally publish anonymous articles or commentary. We have made an exception in this case to protect the identity of a victim of sexual assault in keeping with our policy. We believe that the process of healing and seeking justice after experiencing sexual assault is one that merits privacy. We have verified the facts contained in the accompanying commentary through Campus Safety and police and court records.

Sara Coello

Editor-in-Chief

The University News

 

The University of Dallas bubble is unlike any other university culture; it seems as if nothing bad could ever happen here.

Why would we need police to invade our campus? Campus Safety already occupies that niche, some say.

This doesn’t cover the whole story.

My own shocking and terrible experience has given me insight that I want to share with the UD community.

It was spring of 2015, and I was a freshman in my second semester. One night, I posted up in a classroom in the science building to study. By two in the morning, the janitors began to clean. One janitor propped the door open; he diligently vacuumed the classroom.

Soon after, he returned to the classroom with cheetos and a soda. Without a word, he took a seat at the table across the room from mine. My focus at this point was nonexistent; he tried to make light conversation with me. The conversation seemed relentless from his end as I kept insisting I must continue to study. He was polite and friendly, so I felt bad directly demanding him to leave. After some silence, he asked me if I was on Facebook; I said yes.

He approached me with an outstretched arm, holding his phone in hand and said, “You can search your name so we can be friends on Facebook.” Hoping that this would get him to leave me alone, I attempted a smile and took his Android, typing my name.

The next thing I knew, I had been sexually assaulted.

The following day, I mustered the courage to tell a faculty member what had happened to me. She said that it would be wise for me to report the incident to the police. Campus Safety called the Irving police, who agreed to meet with me that day.

The meeting would take place in Haggar. My anxiety was overwhelming as I stood near the Campus Safety Office awaiting the arrival of the police. It was the middle of the afternoon and Haggar was very crowded. Once the Irving Police showed up, the staring began.

I could feel all the eyes, fixated on my presence with intense curiosity and suspicion. After all, it is a rare sight to see the Irving police in Haggar. They talked with Campus Safety and me; the police and I were led to a private meeting room near the Cap Bar.

I reported the incident so that they could try to track the man down and investigate him. The three cops listened intently, taking notes and asking questions. The meeting was over after about an hour.

CSO led the policemen and me back to the front of Haggar near their office. Standing in a circle, we discussed some specifics. The staring began again; I could feel my phone vibrating every few minutes. It felt like an eternity had elapsed before the Irving police finally departed.

Before I could prepare myself, a few acquaintances shared their reactions with me. One asked, “Did you get in trouble already?”

I kept walking. Again, two acquaintances approached me. They began a polite conversation, then tried to inquire about the reason for my association with the Irving police. I pretended to take a call and returned to my dorm.

My phone had received texts from five different people. Guess what they texted me about? “Why were the Irving police here?” “What happened?” “Are you okay?” “Is it serious?” “Why can’t you talk about it?”

Anxiety and depression hit all at once. I was unable to get out of bed for days. One afternoon, I felt a little better and went to the Cap Bar. I decided to unwind and read the school newspaper. In it, I saw the CSO report about the sexual assault I had just experienced. I took my coffee and left for my dorm to isolate myself again. This experience left me feeling fragile and helpless.

Now, I think to myself that this experience would have been so much easier if the Irving Police were already on campus. I could have avoided the anxiety and stress that the meeting in Haggar brought on me. I probably could have attended class after the meeting without having to worry about confronting my classmates.

Most importantly, I could have had privacy in reporting the assault.

Every person should have the ability here to report crimes such as these, in privacy and without any added stressors. The experience alone is too much to handle at times, and talking about it with police is difficult even in the best of circumstances.

We must help victims recover as much as possible, and having the Irving police on campus would alleviate the first step of this process for people.

Take a look around you today — your classmates, coworkers and neighbors are all dealing with personal issues that you cannot fathom. For example, one year after this incident happened, in 2016, I was raped (this was a case completely unrelated to UD). In fact, as a victim, I am more likely to experience sexual assault again.

The National Center for Victims of Crime reported that in comparison to women “who have not been assaulted, the odds of experiencing a new assault over a 2-year period were doubled for women with one assault, quadrupled for women with two assaults, and elevated ten-fold for women with three or more prior victimizations.”

As a victim and survivor, this fact is astounding to me and leaves much speculation surrounding it. According to RAINN.org (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), only 20 percent of sexual assaults are reported.

Although I have experienced multiple episodes of sexual violence, I know that I will never be a victim again.

Reporting the first incident to the police made me strong enough to report the second, more serious incident. Now, the perpetrator is in jail.

More victims must be encouraged to stand up for themselves and others to make the community safe and prevent sexual assault. In my case, the stress and anxiety of reporting the crime  was worth the justice served. But some of that stress and anxiety could have been prevented with a more private way to report assault on campus.

Whether we like to admit it or not, the police exist to help keep us safe. The addition of a few policemen won’t  harm  our campus. We must do everything we can to protect future victims.

The culture we live in today normalizes all forms of sexual assault. Every 98 seconds someone is sexually assaulted, according to RAINN.  For undergraduate students, 23.1 percent of females and 5.4 percent of male experience rape or sexual assault “through physical force, violence, or incapacitation. Young adults are at very high risk for sexual assault. These statistics are devastating and action is desperately needed.

As citizens, intelligent university students, and moral people, we have the power to take a stand against sexal assault, especially as we begin UD’s “It’s On Us” campaign. Making reporting easier for victims might seem like a relatively unimportant part of that goal, but every bit of confidentiality counts when you are seeking justice for something so violating.

4 COMMENTS

  1. This student just took a huge step in her healing process and has opened the door for others. Thank you for sharing your story – you have no idea how many lives you have touched. Peace and blessings.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I appreciate the courage it took for you to share this and the anxiety that your experience reporting your assault must have caused.

    My concern is whether the method of having a police department on campus is the best method. The University News article describes opening a new police department with six personnel. Is there a way to facilitate having the police (or increased security) without the expense this article describes? (http://udallasnews.com/2017/10/17/board-to-vote-on-ud-police-department/)

    The police used to patrol tower village, so can we not have a contract for Irving PD to patrol UD and even have an office here without establishing an entire department? Student safety should be a priority, I just am not convinced that this plan is the best, especially since the budget has been cut in so many vital places and professors didn’t receive raises last year.

    Your description of meeting CSO and Irving PD in Haggar, such a public student forum, seems indelicate (a weak word, I’m sorry). However, could there not be a better way to handle those types of reports? One that preserves the student’s anonymity without establishing a department on campus?

    If anything I have said has been inconsiderate, please know that it wasn’t meant as such. I think everyone wants students to be safe and, when that fails, for them to have recourse to the law and to support without it adding injury to trauma. I would like to see that the decision to establish a police department is the best: that it is demonstrated to have be thoughtfully considered and best serves the university and the students.

  3. I think background checks, lights, and cameras are sufficient prevention methods. Students also need a easy way to report sexual assault that is campus related. I was also sexually assaulted at UD, and a police force would have done no good in my case.

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