NSU aims to educate in wake of reported sexual assault

On Sept. 8, a timely warning was sent to the NSU community regarding a reported case of sexual assault on campus. In response, NSU Public Safety and Title IX coordinators reiterate the importance of education, resources and preventative measures for students to protect themselves and the NSU community.

 

While there is limited additional information available regarding this case, as it is an open investigation, the NSU Alert stated that this incident occurred on the evening of Sept. 7 involving a female student in a residential hall room on NSU’s main campus. The incident took place after a party at a nearby off-campus apartment complex where alcohol was present. There are two potential persons of interest, whose description was also included in the alert. According to James Lambe, associate director of communications and technology for Public Safety, students can also find crime prevention information within the alert, including resources about alcohol safety, consent and bystander intervention. 

 

According to Laura Bennett, Title IX coordinator and managing director of Title IX compliance and institutional response to sexual misconduct, while the community may receive alerts on specific incidents, there are still actions behind the alert and resources that Title IX coordinators can provide, like confidentiality and other rights.

 

“Victims, survivors and those who are affected by sexual misconduct may need support and it may be ongoing, not just protection of their name. NSU follows the Clery Act and Title IX, but also takes into account a student’s personal decisions and considers their own personal safety based on the circumstances,” said Bennett. 

 

Title IX protects the rights of both the affected and the accused, providing everyone the right to a fair and equitable process. Students have a right to access support, counseling and other local resources — even for students attending NSU remotely. Accessing these resources does not automatically result in formal action or the involvement of law enforcement unless the circumstances warrant an imminent threat to health and safety. In cases of formal action, students have the right to know the outcome of the case.

 

“Students have a right to know their options. They have a right to choose the path that is most beneficial to them and their needs. What we do is provide support to them and explain what is available to them,” said Desmond Daniels, deputy Title IX coordinator and senior Title IX investigator.

 

Two years ago, the Title IX office created a peer educator program with the approach of giving students access to information on various topics, such as consent and healthy relationships. According to Daniels, peer educators are well-positioned to educate members of the NSU community because students are known to learn more from their peers, which this program ensures.

 

Another aspect of student education that Title IX focuses on is bystander intervention which according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), describes a situation where someone who isn’t directly involved may step in to give the person who they are concerned for a chance to get to a safer place. This also includes, according to Bennett, the disruption of so-called rape culture. 

 

“There are problematic actions such as a sexist joke, misgendering or homophobic remarks which are considered low level on the spectrum of sexual misconduct, but should be prevented all the same, which could prevent more violent crimes from happening in the future. By reminding students that they have a role to play in preventing these types of things from happening, they have the power to create that change. Students are the best caretakers of their safety. The power and responsibility is in their hands, but we need to help students navigate those tough conversations which requires skill and education,” said Bennett.

 

According to Larry Massey, director of Public Safety, every criminal wants isolation and minimal risk of interruption. If a student finds themself isolated, or in a situation where there is a risk of isolation or interruption, the chances of the criminals’ success increases. Students in uncomfortable situations can rely on Public Safety resources such as SaferWatch, the blue light system and 24/7 safety escorts.

 

“Every time we have an alert, it is a reminder that we don’t exist in a bubble. 90% of sexual assaults are by someone that an individual knows, which can make it hard to navigate. NSU is a microcosm of society. We like to think it can’t happen, but it can. Even members of our campus are capable of crimes of this caliber. It’s a reminder that crimes can happen anywhere,” said Bennett.

 

For students interested in learning more about this topic they are encouraged to consult the Campus Safety Handbook, follow NSU peer educators on Instagram, visit the NSU’s Title IX website and Public Safety website, downloading SaferWatch or by calling (954) 262-8999 over any safety concerns. 

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