After a semester that saw 76 reported cases of gender-based violence — which includes sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual misconduct, relationship violence and stalking — nearly 50 students and faculty attended the semesterly “Let’s Talk Safety” forum, hosted by the Student Government of Loyola Chicago (SGLC), the university Wellness Center and the Office of the Dean of Students.
The question-and-answer style forum allowed attendees to ask questions on slips of paper about how Loyola handles cases of sexual assault. The space was designated as a “safe haven” due to the sensitive discussion topics, and all questions were anonymous.
The first question addressed was what to do if a friend was the victim of gender-based violence.
“The first thing to do is to believe them,” said Mira Krivoshey, a certified sexual assault advocate at the Wellness Center. “The second thing to do is not to blame them. Something I like to say is that there’s no such thing as a ‘rapeable’ offense. Nothing you did caused someone to violate you, it was that person’s choice.”
The Wellness Center provides short-term care and support groups for survivors of sexual assault and individual counseling sessions to anyone experiencing a crisis, Krivoshey said.
One attendee asked about the best ways to report a sexual assault that had taken place.
Victims can report sexual assaults to the university, which will only investigate at the student’s requests, according to Jessica Landis, the deputy Title IX coordinator for the office of the Dean of Students.
“There are a number of different reporting mechanisms,” Landis said. “As the Title IX deputy coordinator, I am the person who receives notice when you share [an assault has taken place] with a responsible employee of the university.”
Victims can also report to Campus Safety if they want a police investigation, Landis said. If they wish their story to remain confidential, they can report through the Wellness Center, an advocate like Krivoshey or through a religious adviser acting in a sacramental role.
Another question asked how the university’s procedures differ from law enforcement. Illinois law defines sexual assault as “an act of sexual penetration,” while the university considers sexual assault to be “any unwelcome sexual advance that injures or threatens to injure another person.”
“While we are certainly informed of what the law requires us to do as a university, we are also informed by the way we feel is appropriate for a student to engage the community,” said Brian Houze, a coordinator in the Office of Student Conduct & Conflict Resolution. “That might mean that if our personal standards are higher than what the law is suggesting, we will go higher with our policies at the university.”
Sophomore Anna Neufelder recently started a group dedicated to changing perceptions of gender based violence called Challenging Antiquated Norms for Gender Equality (C.H.A.N.G.E). She represented this new group at the safety forum, and offered the attendees information on their goals.
“Our mission is to create inclusive spaces to challenge norms to empower survivors of gender based violence,” said Neufelder, a social change and advocacy major. “We will create hands on programming to create a more open campus culture to these types of issues.”