Sexual misconduct is an increasingly important issue on West Chester’s campus. Students and employees of this university should be aware of what “sexual misconduct” is and what actions should be taken if they or someone they know experiences sexual misconduct. Students and employees both receive the emails that try to inform us about sexual misconduct that happens on campus, including information on how to prevent and avoid sexual misconduct. There are a variety of resources and services that can help students navigate situations that could become unsafe. For example, Paradise Transit (www.paradisetransit.com), which safely shuttles students from campus to downtown West Chester and back for a very reasonable charge, as well as West Chester’s Public Safety officers, are two of several resources to be informed about. Sexual misconduct can occur anywhere and unfortunately does occur a couple dozen times on our very own campus each year. The next steps are to find out more about what sexual misconduct is, and what are the ways for all employees and students to educate themselves on prevention and their role in improving our campus climate.
So what exactly is sexual misconduct? According to West Chester University’s “Sexual Misconduct Handbook,” sexual misconduct is:
-Sexual Harassment: unwelcome sexual advances (intentional or not)
-Sexual Assault: any sexual conduct or contact without consent
-Sexual Exploitation: non-consented/unjust sexual advantage for one’s own benefit
-Stalking: conduct directed at a specific person that instills fear/causes emotional distress in said person
-Dating Violence: violence committed by a person in a romantic/intimate relationship to a victim
-Domestic Violence: violence committed by a current/former spouse to a victim
If you are engaging in either a casual or on-going relationship, both partners need to make sure that there is good communication. Both parties should consent to each level of intimacy. Although sexual misconduct should never happen, be sure to vocalize your non-consent if you are not comfortable in a situation. Consent is key.
Addressing and reporting an incident of sexual misconduct is very important for both the victim and the university. West Chester University wants students and employees to feel secure on campus and it is important for the university to become aware if someone is threatened or attacked. For this reason, if any university employee becomes aware of an act of sexual misconduct, the employee is obligated to report the incident. If the alleged perpetrator is a student or an employee of the university, West Chester will take appropriate action.
If sexual misconduct occurs, the victim has many options and support systems to turn to. On-campus sources include but are not limited to:
-Public Safety (610-436-3311)
-The Office of Social Equity (610-436-2433)
-The Title XI Coordinator (Barbara Schneller: 610-436-2433)
-The Women’s Center (610-436-2122)
-The Health Center (610-436-2509)
-Counseling Center (610-436-2302)
-Judicial Affairs (610-436-3511)
-Residential Living (610-436-3307)
Off-Campus resources include but are not limited to:
-Crime Victims of Chester County (610-692-7273)
-Domestic Violence Center of Chester County (1-888-711-6270)
-Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (1-800-656-4673)
All of the above sources will be able to help the victim with whatever they need. Some offices can help find counseling, others help a person file a sexual misconduct report, or, in the case of Public Safety, finding the victim transportation to a local hospital.
You can report the incident online at the West Chester Sexual Misconduct Policy page (www.wcupa.edu/sexualmisconduct). Although the university encourages the victim to identify both themselves and the alleged perpetrator, the option of being anonymous is available on the online report. The victim can also file a sexual misconduct report through Public Safety. It is essential for students to be aware that if there is alcohol involved in an incident that they would not be charged with an alcohol violation. Public Safety is here as a resource for students to feel safe and comfortable and students should not hesitate to use them in such a situation. Students and employees should also be aware that going to Public Safety with such an incident would not lead to criminal charges or action without the consent or knowledge of the victim.
If such a situation of sexual misconduct were to occur, the victim’s name will only be shared with West Chester’s Title XI’s director, Barbara Schneller, who will protect the privacy of the victim while meeting the University’s legal obligation to investigate.
For more information on either the sexual misconduct policy or to talk to Barbara Schneller, please visit West Chester’s Office of Social Equity located at 13/15 University Avenue, call the office at (610)-436-2433, or attend one of the “Sexual Misconduct Open Forums” being held in Sykes 225 at 12:30p.m. on either Feb. 13 or Apr. 10.
Bonnie Gray is a fourth-year student majoring in English and minoring in technical writing. She can be reached at bg email@example.com.