Campus Police Chief Don Reid said no incidents have been reported after students and faculty members at Dixie State University have suspicions of sexual assault crimes occurring on campus.
“We have had some complaints, but no date rape or reported sexual assaults yet,” Reid said.
Joel Lewis, chair of the department of history and political science and mentor for Take Back The Night club, said sexual assault crimes in southern Utah are often covered up and hard to report. Not only are the cases sensitive in nature, but the community holds conservative values, which make young people ignorant to these crimes.
Lewis said hiding doesn’t solve the problem; in fact, it makes it worse.
“People are quiet about it, and they are embarrassed,” Lewis said. “They are afraid of any controversy that might occur if they are open about it. That’s the exact opposite approach that those involved with sexual assault advocacy would recommend taking.”
Madonna Melton, director of shelter services at the Dove Center, said many crimes go unreported because the victims are often viewed in a harsh light.
“It’s a shameful thing,” Melton said. “Society often blames it on the victim. What was she wearing? Why were they drinking? We really should be asking other questions to help them.”
Melton has been dealing with these situations on a day-to-day basis for nine years. The Dove Center is a resource for those going through domestic violence and rape recovery. They offer counseling, support groups, legal help and a hospital response team. Any victim can use Dove’s resources with or without involving law enforcement.
Melton said there aren’t many prosecutions because it’s such a hard crime to prove.
“Sexual assault is such a horrible, horrible crime,” Melton said. “It is such a personal invasion, and, also, it’s such a he-said, she-said kind of crime.”
Melton said victims of sexual assault don’t get their justice from the criminal justice system.
“Their justice comes from within themselves,” Melton said. “Rarely is there a prosecution. It’s not because we have bad cops or the system is flawed; it’s just the way it is.”
Lewis said the university needs to be more open about the topic of sexual assault in order for fewer crimes to be committed.
“For the person that gets caught participating in sexual violence, it’s a horrible stigma to have that attached to you,” Lewis said. “The idea that you are a rapist or a perpetrator, these are such negative words. The person now thinks twice before they commit an act of sexual violence because they realize the campus has a zero-tolerance policy, and if they participate in that, they will be exposed.”
Dean of Students Del Be
atty said students can read their rights in the student conduct section of the Student Rights and Responsibilities Code, which can be found online. Beatty also said if students are victims of sexual crimes, they can go to him or the campus police.
“Students feel alone a lot,” Beatty said. “Those students will come by so I can become their advocate.”
Beatty will keep a victim’s information confidential if he or she chooses to do so. However, Beatty said he often refers the student to other resources that can assist them better.
“Seven times out of 10, I usually have them see a therapist or refer them to someone else,” Beatty said. “Talk to people with skill sets who have a position to help you.”
Silence empowers perpetrators, Lewis said. However, every perpetrator of violence is a coward. Victims should be able to know they live in a safe place that takes these things seriously.
Melton said the community often advocates that everyone is safe here and sexual assault doesn’t happen, when, in fact, it’s just the opposite.
According to the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault, one in three women in Utah will experience sexual assault at some point in their lives. The rape rate in Utah has been higher than the national average for the past 10 years. According to the FBI’s uniform crime reports, Utah’s reported rape rate was 33 per 100,000 females compared to the US rate of 26.9 per 100,000 females.
Lewis also said the university community needs to be open about sexuality in order to promote healthier relationships, therefore making those affected by sexual assault comfortable about reporting an incident.
“People act like this is such a conservative place and that young people aren’t engaging in sex,” Lewis said. “If you hide it away and pretend it doesn’t happen here, then it encourages the drunken partying and the one-night stands.”
Melton said education is always a good thing. She said it is important to have knowledge of what’s out there for support after a domestic violence or sexual assault attack.
“I would rather have people have information and not use it, than not have the information,” Melton said. “Even if someone’s not ready to use it, when they are, they’ll have it.”
Melton said if there is a situation you believe could be sexual assault, it probably is.
Contact the Dove Center at their 24-hour crisis line at 435-628-0458. The Health and Wellness Center also offers more information and services.
“The key to this type of assault isn’t treatment afterwards—it’s prevention,” Lewis said, “(Once) a person has gone through that, it’s a scar that never heals.”