Addressing sexual assault at Tarleton State University
By: Alexis Burkett
Both men and women alike can be victims of sexual assault. Sexual assault is considered any non-consensual sexual act involving force, manipulation or coercion. It is an act of aggression, violence and power. Tarleton State University prides itself on being a safe campus, but many students are uninformed as to what exactly sexual assault is and the repercussions of those actions.
When asked what was recognized as sexual assault Tarleton students gave a variety of different answers.
“Sexual assault is someone being forced to do something they don’t want to do,” Hannah Marsden, a sophomore, said.
Senior Katie Mearns said sexual assault is “unconsented sexual interaction.”
Tarleton police department also weighed in on the topic.
In an email, Tarleton Police Chief Matt Welch said, “Below is a link to the Texas Penal Code Section 22. This section includes elements of the offense of Sexual Assault and Aggravated Sexual Assault. https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/PE/htm/PE.22.htm.”
Both Mearns and Marsden shared that they know more than one victim of sexual assault.
Marsden said, “I would like to say I would be comfortable reporting a sexual assault to the Tarleton Police Department but with the incidents that happened this past year, the Tarleton community is left with questions. I would say we weren’t fully informed about what was going on in efforts to make students feel like we were safe.”
Although when asked if Tarleton takes sexual assault cases seriously, Welch said, “Most certainly. Sexual assaults are extremely serious crimes and are investigated fully.”
When it comes to reporting sexual assaults it is completely up to the victim to decide if that is something they want to go through or not.
Mearns said, “I know many women who are victims of sexual assault, it is tragic how common it is. Most of them didn’t even report it for numerous reasons. I think that if the victim is comfortable every case should be reported. Not only to get the victim the help that they need, but so that the offender is less likely to attack again.”
Welch said, “Filing a sexual assault report is a personal decision; however, filing a report with the police or with the university helps the victim receive medical and professional assistance.”
Another reason sexual assaults are not reported it because many people are not well informed about how the process works and what they would have to through until justice is reached.
Welch said, “When we receive a report, an officer goes to the victim’s location to start gathering information. The officer will find out where the assault occurred, when it occurred, and any information about the suspect. The officer will ensure the victim receives any needed medical attention. During this time, student counseling and a survivor advocate is notified of the offense and will respond if the victim chooses. Once this initial investigation is complete, the victim will be taken to a hospital for examination and treatment if the victim consents.
While the victim is treated a search for the suspect begins, witnesses are located, and the scene of the assault is searched for evidence. When appropriate, interviews are conducted with the victim, suspect and any witnesses. Any evidence that is collected is processed or sent to a laboratory for analysis.
When the investigation is complete, the case is sent to the District Attorney’s Office for review and filing of any criminal charges.”
Sexual assault occurs everywhere, and women are often afraid to take part in altering someone’s life, because they are often told they brought it on themselves or are afraid they will be judged by their peers. Using resources online and talking with counselors can have a beneficial impact if the situation arises. Sexual assault should never be normalized and victims should not be looked down on.
“Having witnessed the personality changes of sexual assault victims, it forever changes their perception. Their future relationships are altered, the psychological effects are detrimental and they carry that situation with them forever,” Mearns said.
If you think you have been the victim of sexual assault follow this link https://www.tarleton.edu/counseling/resources/sexual-assault.html for more information on how to get help.