Making the Call

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Original Article by Joanne Beck of the Daily News

Blue light phones are placed on campus at Genesee Community College for use during emergency situations. The phones automatically connect the caller with Campus Security. GCC officials believe the phones, video monitoring and the small campus atmosphere have kept dating and domestic violence incidents down at the Batavia campus.

Officials at GCC have begun to tally accounts of stalking, dating violence and domestic violence for a report to be filed this fall, Associate Vice President for Human Resources Gina Weaver says. Although GCC has dealt head-on with such incidents and making referrals for help, there is now one more layer to the task, she said.

“And also the education of what your resources are, the services that are available, that you have resources both internally in the college and externally, and education of what is consent, what are the different phases of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, along with the definition of it.” Weaver explained.

The state Education Department has proposed a new rule as part of the Clery Act (which requires colleges to report crime statistics on/near their campus) to provide more thorough numbers and give a better picture of how many of these incidents are happening on college campuses.

Though this change, which is to take effect in 2015, means more work for college officials, it has also prodded GCC to offer more social education to students.

“It does bring it to the next level. Title IX has some stipulations that require college campuses to follow … to make good faith efforts to provide resources to individuals that are affected by sexual assault, sexual misconduct, those types of things,” Weaver said. “We have the Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook and a lot of the information will be in that. It’s being updated now as a result of this.”

There will also be similar workshops given during orientation and throughout the year, she said.

Resources on campus include the counseling center and counselors in the Dean of Students Office for one-on-one consultation and the campus safety office. As for off-campus assistance, counselors will typically make referrals for students to visit Restore Sexual Assault Services, YWCA’s Domestic Violence Crisis & Prevention Services and Genesee County Mental Health.

 Incidents can be reported to a counselor, a campus safety officer or other college official, a College Village Resident Assistant or by calling 911.

New to the college’s agenda will be including dating violence in its crime statistics. They have been documented but not totaled for comparative use. Numbers for 2013 will be posted online by Oct. 1 and each year will be available from now on, she said.

A new training program being considered for the 2014-15 school year is about bystander prevention. That would offer tips for what to do if one sees some type of sexual assault or sexual misconduct. Students would learn about how to intervene and knowing that it’s OK to do so.

Another training is one that Weaver believes should be more widespread. It’s focused on men and their roles in dating violence.

“To me, that’s the population you need to reach. When you think about sexual assault, we tend to gear all our education toward females: don’t walk alone, watch out about what you drink, make sure to go to a party with someone else,” she said. “When is somebody going to tell the males that it’s not appropriate? Where’s all the education for them?”

GCC’s student population can count on getting such lessons in the near future.

It’s crucial to get people talking about this issue and to stop blaming the victim. The perpetrator needs to be responsible for the crime, she said.

She agreed that education geared for men is every bit as important as those tips for women. By being told not to walk alone or having other good social behaviors, women victims often get the message that “I must be doing something wrong.” That’s not the case, she said.

“GCC has always been really good in education and outreach and in supporting victims,” Theresa Asmus-Roth, Restore area supervisor said. “My biggest concern is those schools that do the best job of … addressing these issues head on may have the most frightening numbers, because people feel safe to report.”

She sees about a handful of GCC students each year, which isn’t reflective of how many referrals are made. Many victims don’t follow through after talking to a college counselor, she said. And there may yet be others that don’t even go to the counselor.

Part of that is due to the professional not always knowing that a client is a student and that the incident was domestic or dating violence. Vallett has done case management for YW’s Domestic Violence Crisis & Prevention Services program, including visits to GCC.

YW Executive Director Jeanne Walton would like to strengthen her agency’s collaboration with GCC in order to best serve victims. “We want to provide services to students who need them, but we can’t do that if we don’t know about all of the domestic violence related incidents,” Walton said.

GCC’s safety director was hired last year and upgraded more recently to serve as a peace officer, which gives him the power to make on-campus arrests, Weaver said. There are six full-time safety officers plus seven part-time that work shifts for 24/7 coverage throughout the campus, including College Village.

There are also video monitors and emergency blue light phones throughout campus to help deter crime and help victims connect to campus security immediately.

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