Alerts signaling alleged sexual assaults spark worry and skepticism across campus

Staff Reporter

Staff Reporter

On March 12, students received a UD Alert indicating that an alleged sexual assault incident occurred in a North Campus residence hall. There was no follow-up by UD Alert about the information provided. 

Razan Abdullah, a sophomore Africana studies major at the university, was disappointed by the alert. She felt that the university has not done enough to respond to these incidents. 

“We usually get safety alerts where they say a sexual assault has happened on campus, and they send the usual generic thing that they’re going to be doing something about it, but then nothing really happens,” Abdullah said. “So it’s … disappointing because I feel like more should be done in response to it rather than the generic response that always comes out.” 

Abdullah was frustrated by the university’s reaction to past issues of violence involving students as well, referencing the alleged domestic violence incident that occurred on Oct. 8, 2021. 

“I remember last year there was a big protest about the … assault that happened to the poor girl who was beaten horribly, and like they were exposing different protocols,” Abdullah said, referencing the perceived silence from university officials immediately after the occurrence.

According to the university’s Title IX page, “Any student, faculty, or staff member with questions or concerns about the applicable University policies or who believes that he or she has been the victim of sex discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating/ domestic violence is encouraged to contact the University’s Title IX Coordinator.” 

Abdullah believes that campus remains dangerous to victims as protocols that do not extend beyond campus could not protect them from interactions on Main Street. 

“I just feel like the whole, like, protocols that are in place don’t really protect the victim,” Abdullah said. “It just makes the school look good. And allows them to say that they did something when in reality they don’t really, like, actually do something. They just put the victim through a whole process.”

Adam Bourjal, a sophomore electrical engineering major, also had thoughts on the university’s response to alleged sexual assault incidents on campus. He said that there was an issue with hookup culture on campuses. 

“Guys and girls need to learn this whole aspect that you can’t really force yourself on someone and there should be a level of respect,” Bourjal said. “I think that there should be more situations where the stuff is addressed because I feel like it’s only addressed when it’s the heat of the moment and then as soon as that moment passes on, they’re like, people don’t really care anymore. So I think the university should put more resources into it.”

The university has the duty through the Clery Act to notify students of incidents that occur on campus, including alleged sexual assaults. However, information is often restricted based on the situation.

Angela Hattery, a professor of women & gender studies and co-director of the Center for the Study & Prevention of Gender-Based Violence, and Lt. Adrienne Benevento of UDPD both cited the Clery Act as reasoning for the limited information provided to the campus community. 

When Hattery received the alert on March 12, she experienced “deep sadness and furious rage and anger.”

“For the most part, the risk that, especially women, but other people too, the risk that they’ll experience sexual violence on campus today, for you, is about the same as it was when I was in college,” Hattery said. “And that’s not okay.”

Julia Diamond/THE REVIEW

According to Hattery, studies have shown that there is a risk of sexual violence everywhere, even when certain elements of campus culture, such as alcohol, sports teams and Greek life, are not present. However, Hattery is confident that with “real, empirically-based, tested approaches” to prevention, such as a required class or training spanning months instead of the one-time online module that is currently required for students, the number of incidents can be reduced. 

“It’s really, sadly, not that unique to the University of Delaware,” Hattery said. “Let’s acknowledge that sexual violence happens here, let’s be honest about it and then let’s look to the experts.” 

Benevento emphasized that the Title IX Office, Sexual Offense Support and organizations outside of the university all have victim support resources and advocates.

“That really is dependent on the reporting victim and what it is that they want,” Benevento said in regards to the police department’s response to these incidents. 

UDPD works closely with the other offices and resources previously mentioned, but the process is highly individualized for the victim, meaning that the victim gets to choose how far the process is taken.

“We want to provide as many resources and as much support as we can, whether that’s through the police department or other university entities,” Benevento said. 

Making sure students know the importance of reaching out for help if and when needed is a priority for the entire department, according to Benevento. 

“I want to encourage anyone who feels that they’ve been a victim of sexual assault to reach out to the police department because we are here for that purpose,” Benevento said. “We are here to help victims. That’s why we do the job that we do is to keep this campus safe, but if we don’t know about it there’s only so much we can do.” 

Originally posted 2023-05-10 15:00:00.