Sexual Abuse Q&A with Bloomsburg University

Dr. David SoltzGiven recent events at Penn State, we felt it might be helpful to talk with Bloomsburg University officials to discuss the policies and procedures related to sexual abuse on campus.  President Soltz issued a statement several days after the events at Penn State transpired which encouraged those in the university community to alert authorities about potential sexual abuse that may be occurring on campus.  However, we wanted to dig a little deeper in order to discuss what training and procedures are in place behind the scenes and what the requirements for reporting are for university police.  In addition, given that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men are sexual abuse victims, we wanted to find out what types of resources Bloomsburg University provides for those impacted by sexual abuse.

We read your statement about defining the process for reporting potential sexual abuse cases, with people encouraged to go directly to university police.  What compelled you to make the statement?

With the recent headlines, this was a good time to review BU’s current policy as well as remind the campus community of the proper protocol.

You encourage anyone in the university to notify campus police if they have reason to believe there is abuse going on.  That is fantastic, but on the other side, what are you telling campus police? Are there training or sensitivity programs going on there to help them deal with any potential cases?  Are they equipped to respond?

BU takes a team approach in addressing cases of sexual abuse / sexual harassment. Our campus police are part of that team. Within the last three weeks, the team attended a training session on this topic. Additionally, BU hosted a two-day workshop on how to conduct investigations involving sexual assault/sexual harassment cases. The university also consults with PASSHE (Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education) legal counsel on a regular basis to ensure we are handling cases of this nature in an appropriate manner.

With regard to campus police, what is their reporting role/process to town or state police?  If a case of abuse is brought forward, are they legally obligated to share that information?

If a crime is reported on campus, it is in the jurisdiction of Bloomsburg University Safety and Police Department. BU Police will investigate, consult with the DA and file charges. Like our counterparts, Bloomsburg Town Police, we submit a unified crime report monthly to the State Police.

Clearly in the case of Jerry Sandusky, people were potentially incredulous — when faced with rumors and potential incidents –because he was thought to be such a good, upstanding person who had such high standing. And with 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men sexually abused at some point in their life, this is probably going on in every town and on every campus across the country.  How do we convey to the university community that anyone can be a victim and anyone can be a perpetrator?

There’s information on the University Web site regarding sexual assault/sexual harassment. (http://www.bloomu.edu/Title_IX) Educational information is emailed and posted around campus detailing how to report allegations of sexual assault / sexual abuse. (http://www.bloomu.edu/wrc)

What resources do you have on campus for sexual abuse victims?

In addition to the BU Police, the team includes representatives from the Office of Social Equity, Women’s Resource Center, University Counseling Services, Residence Life and the Office of Student Standards. When an incident is reported, the Title IX coordinator is obligated to coordinate services with all of the offices involved. This ensures our police are notified and involved immediately. Additionally, if a student is harmed, residence life and the counseling services are on hand to provide support and resources. It’s important to note the Women’s Resource Center is readily available to assist any individual who has been a victim of sexual assault or abuse.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination based on gender in educational programs which receive federal financial assistance. Programs and activities which may be included are: academic programs, admissions, athletics, employment and recruitment, financial aid and university housing.

Title IX clearly prohibits sexual harassment which includes sexual assault and violence.

Candlelight Vigil Held for Victims of Sexual Abuse at Penn State

Old Main VigilA candlelight vigil was held on the steps of Old Main Friday night to show support for the victims of sexual abuse, alleged to have been committed by former Penn State Football Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky. This event, organized by students to show support for the abused children, was in memory of and in recognition of these horrible acts. An estimated 10,000 people attended.

The feeling at Old Main was very somber, as thousands of faculty, staff, students, community members, and visitors packed the typically huge open space to attempt to begin to come to terms with the events of the week. Several speakers spent time talking about what this week has meant to them and the community, but their words always returned to the need to focus on the victims of abuse. A student read an anonymous letter written by a fellow student who was a victim of sexual abuse. She concluded the letter by saying that she was “standing somewhere in the crowd, somewhere next to you.” She challenged the crowd to look closely and work to discover cases of abuse and to act.

Former Penn State All-American football player, LaVar Arrington told the crowd to use these events as a challenge. “Let it be known that we waged war to make a difference,” Arrington said. “Leave here tonight with a resolve and an understanding that you possess the power to change things.”

Penn State senior and organizer Jessica Sever said she felt as though something needed to be done to put the focus back on the victims, not President Spanier or Joe Paterno. “What I really want to focus on is the victims right now,” Sever said. “We really need some positivity, because there is none right here.”

Following the speakers, the Old Main Bell rang 10 P.M. and the crowd joined in a moment of silence. The silence of the evening was interrupted only twice. The first when the crowd locked arms and sang the School’s Alma Mater. The second was an explosive series of, “We Are … Penn State” chants that ended moments later with just a chant of “Penn State.”

Over the past week the reactions of the Penn State and State College communities has been a raw mixture of shock, anger, violence, sadness, disbelief and reflection. This candlelight vigil seemed to be the beginning of new direction for the students of Penn State, one of recognition and resolve.

In support of the sexual abuse victims of this tragedy, and all victims everywhere, the Penn State Community around the world has, as of this posting, donated $238,000 to RAINN. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization. This is a grassroots effort and the total donated to date represents the sum total of individual spontaneous donations contributed through #ProudPSUforRAINN

Portions of this report were taken from Onward State. Onward State, is a student-written independent online news source for the Penn State community. The Bloomsburg Daily thanks Onward State for their kind partnership and permission to repost their content.