Students kept unaware of sexual assault info

by Stacey Oparnica

Several months ago, I had the opportunity to speak with Nora, a former San Diego State student who was raped and beaten by her then-boyfriend while she was a student here. As the subject of my previous column, “Rape victims at SDSU: Come forward,” she recounted startling details about her experience of reporting the incident and working with the Center for Student Rights and Responsibilities and the SDSU Police Department in an effort to get her abuser expelled. In addition to waiting seven months for a copy of her police report to be issued to her, she waited more than a month for the Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. James Kitchen to notify her of the outcome of her case.

Several weeks ago, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs, Campus Life Timothy Quinnan submitted a letter to the editor attempting to discredit my column “SDSU Rape Victims: Come Forward,” as well as dilute the severity of the conflicts I mentioned regarding SDSU’s judiciary proceedings. Quinnan outlined numerous efforts SDSU makes to prevent the occurrence of sexual assault on campus, including sponsoring numerous educational programs, hosting regular workshops and offering dozens of presentations about sexual assault awareness every semester. He contends that thousands of students are being reached every year through these efforts. Well, let’s review the numbers. Peer Health Education conducted 50 presentations this semester, reaching more than 650 students. Just last semester, it was able to reach more than 1,000 students, according to Student Health Services. Quinnan also referred to the Wellness Workshops provided by Student Health Promotion, Counseling and Psychological Services and the SDSU Police Department, which target incoming freshmen and are offered during the first few weeks each fall. They reached almost 1,000 students last semester.

So far, we’re talking about less than 3,000 students, not even 10 percent of the population of our school. He goes on to say that the university is extremely “conscientious” about alerting students of criminal activity through the Police Media Logs, the SDSU Police Facebook page and the new NIXLE text messaging service. But in researching the piece I was told there is no way of knowing how many students have registered for the Police Media Logs or the NIXLE text messaging service, meaning there is virtually no way for the police to determine how many students they are actually reaching through these services. It could be as many as 10,000 students or as few as 12.

Prevention methods aside, according to the Executive Order, both parties are supposed to be notified of a decision within 15 days after the hearing. In Nora’s case, she waited anxiously for roughly one month before she was finally notified of the outcome of her case. She said it was made very clear to her she was not permitted to speak about the final decision to anyone — doing so would jeopardize her abuser’s confidentiality. This is by far the most disturbing part of her story. In the U.S. Department of Education’s Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting, it states, “… a victim cannot be required to sign a nondisclosure agreement or to otherwise agree to a prohibition from discussing the case.” It’s not clear why SDSU thought it was appropriate or ethical to prevent Nora from speaking about her story, but it does make me wonder how many victims are walking around who are too afraid to speak about their attack out of fear of violating his / her abuser’s confidentiality. What it ultimately comes down to is that, while SDSU’s prevention efforts are worth commending, they simply aren’t enough. While I am a student here — and after I have graduated — I want to know that the interests of victims of sexual assault at SDSU are a No. 1 priority. Victims should not be waiting seven months for the SDSUPD to issue them police report copies and they certainly should not have to send a letter to the vice president of student affairs requesting his decision be made in a timely manner.

To me, that is truly an embarrassing display of a lack of punctuality and respect for those who have already endured so much. Quinnan’s letter may seem reassuring, especially his list of SDSU’s methods of preventing sexual assault on campus. However, if every student at SDSU was surveyed, how many would be able to name three services for sexual assault victims offered by SDSU? How many would know what to do and what not to do after an attack? How many are aware of the Rape Aggression Defense Program, the SDSU Police Facebook page, the NIXLE text messaging service or the police logs? You see, what Quinnan seemingly fails to understand is that these services are irrelevant if no one is even aware they exist.

The bottom line? Nora is a real victim with real evidence to support the accusations she made toward the school. I know for a fact there are more like her at SDSU. I just hope, for the sake of the victims, that SDSU doesn’t handle every case like it handled Nora’s.

— Stacey Oparnica is a journalism sophomore.

— The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec.