A proposal by the Portland Women’s Crisis Line to implement a 24-hour advocate program on the PSU campus for sexual assault victims prompts the question, “Are PSU student services adequate for providing sexual assault victim assistance?”
There is some concern about the quality of the services offered, and general agreement that those services are in need of improvement. Aimee Shattuck, a senior majoring in social work and co-coordinator of the Women’s Resource Center, has made contact with more than a few women who were either physically or sexually assaulted at Portland State University.
Although she is bound by confidentiality and cannot discuss situations in detail, Shattuck said she met a recent victim of on-campus acquaintance rape who claims to have gotten inadequate service from CAPS and Student Health Services.
The woman, heavily intoxicated when she was assaulted, was not sure of her options and was generally confused. According to Shattuck, she claimed that neither CAPS nor Health Services offered referrals or guidance on her first visit.
However, most sexual assault victims that Shattuck has met chose not to use PSU’s services for help. She explained, “There are a lot of reasons people don’t get services. I think there is a lot of shame, guilt and confusion. As a victim you’re not sure if what you think happened really happened.”
Pat Clemmins, Women’s Crisis Line support group coordinator, has also known a few women who were sexually assaulted on the PSU campus.
She did not provide a specific victim count, but has seen more than one PSU student in her sexual assault support groups who felt a lack of support at PSU.
There were four reported ‘forcible sex offenses’ that occurred on campus in 2000. Shattuck said, “We know that sexual assaults are happening on campus, but there are very few reported incidences.”
There are a number of departments and organizations at PSU that offer some form of assistance to sexual assault victims.
Margaret Trout, Student Health Services nurse manager, said the role of her department is to offer referrals and information to victims so they can make informed health care decisions.
Health Services does not perform evidence collection exams or advocacy. Trout explained, “We are not specialists in evidence collection, but we are specialists in health care. We can help them determine where to go.”
Trout said that after a victim is referred to OHSU, she is given information about what to expect there. A CAPS counselor is made available to accompany them in a cab to OHSU and wait there until the victim meets with a rape advocate or social worker.
If the victim decides not to press charges and not to go to OHSU, then Health Services performs an exam to check for injuries and sexually transmitted infections.
People will sometimes go to Health Services not knowing if they’ve been raped, or not wanting to admit it. Sandy Franz, director of Student Health Services, explained that when an emergency contraceptive pill is requested, the nurse must ask if the sex was consensual and if they had been drinking alcohol.
Mary Collins, director of CAPS, added, “Not everyone knows what consensual means, so they [the nurses] ask it in different ways. A lot of women don’t know that if you were too drunk to say yes, maybe that wasn’t good for you to be that drunk, but you’ve been raped…. There are a lot of people who get raped and don’t know they’ve been raped.”
Collins said that normally the attending nurse would try to get a sense of what happened.
Training for nurses at Student Health Services
Franz said that all of the nurses on staff have bachelor of science degrees and were required as part of their curriculum to undergo some form of sexual assault training.
In addition, Trout attends the interpersonal violence task force meetings, developed by the Women’s Resource Center, and a tri-county task force on sexual assault, then brings the information back to Health Services to share with the staff.
Franz also said that every staff member has been made aware of the issue at meetings.
Trout said that one nurse is both START (sexual assault response team) and SANE (sexual assault nurse examiner) certified.
Another nurse is Red Cross certified to deal with sexual and physical assault.
Trout would like to have everyone START trained at some time in the future.
Shattuck said about Health Services, “There is a wealth of training and they’re on the right road to getting it, they just need a lot more training.”
To improve their sexual assault training, Franz said, “We’re always looking for new opportunities and we need to keep abreast of new things.”
CAPS provides emergency counseling services in addition to their ongoing therapy sessions. Collins said, “We have psychologists, social workers and psychiatrists; they’re all licensed and need to take an appropriate amount of training dealing with trauma and particularly trauma of sexual assault.”
However, she said, “We’re basically generalists, so we don’t have anybody identified as a specialist for this or that or anything, but we do have people that have special training and special interests.”
They try to make clients as comfortable as possible by matching them with a same sex counselor.
Clients are dealt with on a case-by-case basis, Collins said. “If someone came in and knew they had been sexually assaulted, we would try to understand what the needs were at that point and explore whether they knew what they wanted to do.”
Women’s Resource Center
The Women’s Resource Center, located in the southeast corner of the Smith Center basement, provides literature, referrals and support. They strive to have a confidential, quiet and comfortable atmosphere.
They deal with many issues including domestic and sexual violence.
The Resource Center has taken an active role in addressing the lack of sexual assault training and resources on campus. They developed the interpersonal violence task force, they are working with the Women’s Crisis Line to implement a 24-hour advocate program for sexual assault victims and currently are trying to obtain a grant to fund a domestic violence educational campaign.
Shattuck and former Resource Center Coordinator Liv McClelland began the task force last spring quarter. They were motivated to get the task force started last year after a domestic violence incident occurred in Smith Center near the ASPSU child care center.
A woman was threatened by her former male partner whom she had a restraining order against. The woman screamed when he tried to forcibly take her out of the building, but no one attempted to help her or even call campus safety right away.
Shattuck said the goals of the task force are to create guidelines and policies for each department so something in writing exists. She also stressed the importance of departments and organizations meeting to share information.
Organizations that are involved in the task force include: College Housing Northwest (CHNW), the Ombuds Office, the Women’s Commission, Child and Family Services, Student Affairs, Student Development, Campus Public Safety, Student Health Services and Counseling and Psychological Services.
Meetings are held on the second Wednesday of every month. The next meeting, open to the public, will be held on March 13 from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in Smith Center, Room 229.
The Resource Center is hoping to receive a federal grant from the ‘public information community awareness campaign project for the prevention of family violence.’
Shattuck submitted the grant request a few weeks ago. She said, “It would be really really nice to get it, but I’m not holding my breath.”
If granted funding, they will form a subcommittee of the task force to head an educational campaign on campus that would raise awareness of issues such as interpersonal violence, domestic violence, sexual assault and sexual harassment.
Shattuck explained that they would inform people of the symptoms of domestic and sexual violence and where to go for help as well as answer questions.
The funding would pay for booklets, brochures and a presentation curriculum. Shattuck said, “We would create the product, pilot it at PSU, do educational campaigning on campus and hand over the product so it could be used tri-county wide through other nonprofits.”
Shattuck is hoping to put the campaign into action in March or April. If they do not get the grant, they will develop a similar campaign on a much smaller scale.
They would contact teachers and request 15 minutes of class time to discuss interpersonal violence and where to go for more information
Campus Public Safety Office
The Campus Public Safety Office is involved in numerous activities devoted to sexual assault awareness and prevention. Additionally, three officers are trained in crisis intervention.
John Fowler, director of Campus Public Safety, is called on occasion by CAPS to explain to sexual assault victims that they can file an official or anonymous report through the public safety office. If an official report is filed, they are required by law to report the incident to the Portland Police Department.
Fowler strongly encourages reporting, saying, “Sexual assaults are the single most underreported crime recognized within a campus environment. In the absence of reporting we can’t move forward and chase the investigative leads we need to try and get these issues resolved.”
However, he explained, often victims want guidance but do not want to officially report a sexual assault incident. In that case they can go to the office for referrals and to find out their options.
Fowler explained that if there is student involvement cited on an official report, the public safety office forwards that information to CAPS and the dean of students office.
Shattuck said of the safety office, “They’re really pro-active and have a lot of information on sexual assault. They really try to do a good job.”
Other campus resources
There are many other places to go on campus for help or information.
The Ombuds office offers assistance in a safe, confidential atmosphere. They do not take part in filing complaints, but they help victims identify options available and a variety of coping methods.
The president’s commission on the status of women, commonly known as the women’s commission, strives to create a healthy campus climate that values and promotes diversity.
Campus public safety offers a 24-hour escort service that will accompany people to within a 15-minute radius of the campus.
The sexual harassment resource network provides students with an informal network of faculty and staff to contact with concerns about sexual harassment.
Resources on campus
Affirmative Action Office ——– 503-725-4417, Cramer Hall 122
Conflict resolution between all members of the campus community and departments of PSU
Campus Public Safety Office —- 503-725-4407, Southwest Broadway/College. Next to Shattuck Hall.
Open 24 hours a day. Offers information, escort service, handles campus emergencies
Campus OMBUDS Office ——– 503-725-5901, Cramer Hall 169
A clearinghouse for issues that need resolution. A neutral, confidential Ombudsperson will listen to your issue and decide the appropriate avenue.
Women’s Resource Center ——– 503-725-5672, Smith Center 28 (Southeast corner of the basement)
Referral center. People may also relax, study, and meet others in a safe environment.
Office of Student Affairs ———- 503-725-4422, Smith Center 433
This office is responsible for taking complaints, investigating the incident and determining whether the accused student will be sanctioned.
Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) — 503-725-4423, Smith Center M343
Provides counseling and some advocacy
Student Health Services ————- 503-725-3462, Neuberger Hall D4 (basement)
Provides health services and referrals
Sexual harrassment network ———- Carol Burnell at 503-725-3580, no office. http://www.pcsw.pdx.edu/index.html
Provides educational information on sexual harassment and provides students with an outlet for informal discussion or referral.
Bradley-Angle House —– 503-281-2442
Offers shelter to men or women in abusive relationships. Also offers support groups and a crisis line for sexual assault victims.
Portland Women’s Crisis Line —- 503-235-5333
Crisis intervention, sexual assault services & advocacy, support groups, legal advocacy, information and referral
Rape Crisis Center — 503-640-5311
Advocacy through the medical, legal and emotional process. Support groups, referral services and information
WomenStrength —— 503-823-0296
Self-defense classes and assault prevention information provided through the Portland Police Department. Free to all. Call to register for the next class.
Resources by county for advocacy, legal assistance, sexual violence and much more: www.anydoor.orgWeb site on dating violence: www.cdc.gov/ncipc/factsheets/datviol.htmUniversity of Arizona rape education project: www.u.arizona.edu/~sexasslt/arpep/National Violence Against Women: www.nvaw.org