Campus sexual assault victims choose confidentiality over criminal action

Feb. 15, 2016

Abbie Stillman
astillma@uccs.edu

Sexual assault is a serious issue, one in which UCCS victims choose to report the offence confidentially and not criminally.

Student victims have reporting options. The Counseling Center offers confidential reporting while the UCCS Police Department gives the option of criminal reporting.

“In the past year, we have had about four or five victims a semester,” said Mental Health Services director Benek Altayli.

These victims typically come in by referral from someone who has noticed they are going through hardship.

This amount is more than those who report an incident through public safety.

Police lieutenant Marc Pino, who has worked at UCCS for 12 years, said nine out of ten sexual assault cases will go unreported.

According to the 2015 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, there were two cases of rape and two cases of fondling reported in 2013, as well as one case of fondling in 2014. There were no reported cases of sexual assault in 2015.

Altayli said some victims seek counseling without having reported the assault. In these cases, the counselor will ask if they would like to know about the reporting process. In this situation, UCCS police will explain the process and offer as much support as possible.

Altayli said most of the sexual assault victims they help were victimized off campus.

There are various reasons why a victim will refuse to report the incident.

“Victims feel ashamed, embarrassed, blame themselves for the assault, or think people will blame them due to historical events,” said Altayli.

“Many victims think, ‘what did I do to make this happen to me?’”

Most sexual assault cases will be resolved in therapy within five or six counseling sessions, Altayli said.

Pino said in most cases, the victim already knows the suspect.

“Victims should not be scared to report their case, everything we deal with in the Wellness Center is confidential,” said Altayli.

Reporting sexual assault or stalking (in person or in cyberspace) is mandated for everyone at the university.

According to UCCS’ administrative policy statement, sexual assault is defined as any sexual intercourse, however slight, with any object, by any person upon another person that is without affirmative consent and/or by force.

Once a sexual assault has been reported to UCCS police, the case is given to investigators on campus to look into.

There are various resources on campus students can use if they think they are in trouble or think someone else might be in trouble. 55 emergency phones are scattered throughout campus, and public safety is available for any type of complaint.

The Counseling Center is also available for those who know someone that has been victimized. The center is bound by confidentiality agreement to not share your story with anyone unless you have vocalized plans of hurting yourself or someone else.

Pino has only heard of one case where someone was falsely accused of sexual assault. False accusations are considered a felony in the Colorado Revised Statutes.

“In those cases, the person to report is trying to get them in trouble,” said Pino.

In Pino’s experience, there have been no cases where someone has reported sexual assault and then recanted their story.