Sexual Violence at Indiana University: The Questions

Sexual violence is a crime.

Sexual violence should not be a norm.

Sexual violence affects 1 in 5 women and 1 in 33 men.

There were 252 reports of alleged sexual misconduct reported on the Indiana University Bloomington campus in 2014-2015 according to The Annual Student Welfare Report. Only 40 out of the 252 cases moved forward under the University disciplinary process. Sexual misconduct includes: sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating or domestic violence and stalking.

“There’s kind of this running rhetoric of, you can only do so much,” said Shadia Siliman, Indiana University graduate student. Siliman interpreted and transcribed the 2014-2015 Campus Climate Survey while working at the Title IV office. Students were asked if there was a solution to sexual violence, she said, “I think that kind of deep down a lot people feel like it can’t really be eliminated truly.”

A lot of students simply felt there was no solution to this absolutely chilling issue, affecting so many individuals.

“People like to say oh it’s Greek life, oh it’s alcohol, or it’s a lack of education,” Siliman said. “I think among all the types of sexual violence I’ve seen, I think the thing that runs through is entitlement. People just feel like they should have access to other people’s bodies.”

Siliman uses the word ‘entitled’ to describe sexual violence situations. She says these people feel insecure and they seek to grasp their power through entitlement, but Siliman brings up another pressing issue; why does consent fail?

“If we have students on campus that just don’t care if the person they are attacking is a person and has feelings and rights, then they won’t care if you consent or not,” Siliman said.

She asks, why would an attacker care if a person says no if they don’t even care about them as a human being? So if this issue is so jarring, why did only 40 of the 252 sexual violence cases report their incidents to the university?

The 2014-2015 Campus Climate survey also asked how the University can change. Siliman says there’s a massive emotional toll with reporting incidents, she questions, is it even worth it to press charges?

“Students wanted more transparency from the University,” Siliman said. “They wanted to know what the outcomes were? How many people were being charged? What the outcomes were and punishments were? What’s the process as a whole?”

Siliman says, like other universities, IU is known for giving low-level punishments for serious crimes, and for letting athletes and fraternity members off the hook and students simply don’t trust the process. She says reporting is emotionally laborious, retraumatizing, and can even be mortifying if the student is not taken seriously by the administration.

Senior Director for Wellness Prevention and Victim Advocacy Leslie Fasone says there is an upsetting rape culture on campus.

“Until we start addressing, this is what rape culture looks like, here’s just a piece of that and that’s what we have to change,” Fasone said. “How do we change people’s attitudes and perceptions? How do we change this culture? What do we do? How do we stop it? And I think it’s the big frustration, this is what’s happening it is not okay.”

Fasone says students must become aware of the signs of unhealthy relationships which can be sexual, physical, controlling, emotional or financial types of abuse. She said, “If other people know that they’re friends are not accepting of that behavior, that’s huge..that’s what’s going to change this culture.”

The Sexual Violence Prevention and Victim Advocacy Office focuses on creating a safe haven for students experiencing sexual misconduct or domestic violence. Senior Assistant Director of Victim Resources, Sally Thomas, says the office does not exclusively deal with on campus trauma. If students had a childhood, high school or off-campus experience the office will still provide help.

President of Culture of Care Miko Siewenie says education is truly the only way to change the cultures perpetuated on campus. She says, all we can do is be supportive of victims of sexual violence until they’re ready to take the next step.

“Making sure that, no matter how cheesy it sounds, that you’re taking care of your friends around you,” Siewenie said. “Always stop if you see something that isn’t right, stop and ask that person, are you okay? Do you need help?”

Culture of Care focuses on mental health, sexual well-being, drugs and alcohol awareness and respect. Siewenie says they are collaborating with other groups on campus to increase awareness of sexual violence by providing bystander intervention education.

“In college, I was sexually assaulted and I didn’t really know what to do about it and I didn’t talk to anyone for a really long time,” Siewenie said. “When I finally realized the resources that were there and the people that were there to support me, it was kind of a weight off my shoulders. I want to help people realize how powerful they are and how they can make a difference.”

For more information on sexual violence and resources for help, visit the Sexual Violence Prevention Office or visit stopsexualviolence.iu.edu.