Mason pleased with advances with handling sexual assaults


Despite recent sexual assaults, University of Iowa President Sally Mason said administrators have made progress in continued efforts aimed at informing and assisting students through trauma correlated with sexual assault.

Mason said over the past few years, the UI has tried to educate the student population about how to approach these types of situations.

“Unfortunately, people are going to continue to do things that we wish they wouldn’t,” Mason said in an interview with The Daily Iowan. “But I think education is a key in helping people understand how they can either in some cases avoid situations that might lead to unintended consequences or in other instances at least understand what you can do if in fact you find yourself in a situation where you’ve been sexually assaulted or someone’s threatening you.”

After a 2007 reported sexual assault involving a female athlete and two football players, investigations were launched, reports were filed, and the state Board of Regents’ special counsel recommended changes to policies regarding sexual assault for regent universities in the state of Iowa.

According to a regents’ report, these policy changes included “easily comprehensible information with respect to university sexual assault reporting and investigation options should be made readily available to the university community,” but most notably, “a trained advocate must be made available to alleged victims of sexual assault during all stages of the reporting and investigative process.”

On Sept. 26, 2008, the past director of the Women’s Resource and Action Center Monique DiCarlo filled the new position as sexual-assault-response coordinator at the UI.

In her time as that coordinator, DiCarlo said she has seen communication improve overall.

“What we have in place that we didn’t have in 2008 is we have a central place to report,” DiCarlo said. “And when they do report, we ensure that students know their rights, that they’re linked with victim advocates and other supportive resources, and we work with students instructors to provide academic accommodations if these things occur.”

The UI Antiviolence Coalition also is committed to improving policies regarding handling instances of sexual assault and also looks at web-based tools for providing students with education — jut some initiatives DiCarlo noted have led to improvement in responses to sexual assault.

“I think things have improved in that the campus has a stronger coordinated campus response and there is more collaboration and communication between offices that have a role in response services … we’ve committed to knowing there’s an ongoing process of improvement,” DiCarlo said. “I’m grateful that President Mason thinks we’ve improved and others that have as well.”

Karen Siler, assistant director of the Rape Victim Advocacy Program, said she believes the university improving iots policies have benefited university dealings overall with sexual assault.

“The addition of a sexual-assault-response coordinator has made the process more accessible, and information is consistently being shared with people who have been abused and assaulted, so they have the opportunity to make an informed choice about what they want to do,” Siler said.

Mason said she hoped the university will continue to advance in the realm of sexual assault.

“We hope over time as students become more and more aware of the reasons for these kinds of things happening and the ways in which you can try and help prevent them and we’ll see fewer,” Mason said. “Right now, I’m actually gratified that students are reporting — it’s a first step.”

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