Tag Archives: sexual assault

Upcoming Week of Events Highlight Sexual Assault Awareness

The Students Taking Action Against Sexual Violence group on campus will be presenting Sexual Assault Awareness Week from April 19-24.  According to Samantha Sheppard-Gonzales co-director of STAASV, “The ‘It Affects Me’ campaign exists to promote campus policies that support prevention, recovery and justice, rather than silencing or victim-blaming. ‘It Affects Me’ encourages USF students to be active friends, not bystanders, and to think critically about the definition of ‘consent.’ Sexual violence is a community issue – not a women’s issue or a strictly heterosexual issue.”

From Monday to Wednesday there will be a clothesline project where any student can decorate a t-shirt about sexual violence and empowerment in any way they choose.  There will be tables in front of the cafeteria and Parina lounge on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 11 p.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.  The shirts will be displayed in every hall, the cafeteria, and the library.

On Sunday and Monday, April 18 and 19, educational workshops will take place in the residence halls.  On Sunday they will be in Pedro Arrupe and Phelan Hall, and on Monday the workshops will be conducted in Gillson (for Hayes-Healy residents as well) and on Lone Mountain, for Loyola Village residents as well.  The workshops will take place from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. both days.

Tuesday is dedicated to Create Against Rape, a night of empowerment for the USF student body through arts and personal expression.  It will take place in UC 222 from 7 p. m. to 9 p.m.  Poetic Engagement will host a writing workshop as well as perform original pieces of spoken word to encourage discussion, and anyone who comes will be able to convey their thoughts through multiple mediums, including collaging, zine-making, painting, knitting, writing and performance, button-making, and decorating t-shirts for the Clothesline Project.  Food will be served.

Tuesday and Thursday will each feature a bake sale in Harney Plaza during dead hour, 12:15pm to 1:15pm.  There will be tasty treats available and the proceeds will go to the San Francisco Women Against Rape (SFWAR) Walk Against Rape.

On Wednesday there will be A Dialogue for Men, in a to-be-determined location from 7pm to 9pm.  This will be a space facilitated by students where men can speak frankly about their experiences as men at USF.  Topics of discussion include sex, violence, and masculinity.

Thursday is Take Back the Night from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., a march and rally by candlelight, which was inspired by an 1877 rally in London where “women protested the fear and violence they experienced in the nighttime streets” (www.takebackthenight.org). The USF community will join together to support survivors of sexual violence and declare that violence of any kind is not tolerated here.  In addition to the march through campus, there will be an open mic for survivors of sexual violence, supporters of survivors, and advocated against violence to share thoughts and stories.  Food will be available for a small donation to the Walk Against Rape, and t-shirts and supplies will be available to contribute to the Clothesline Project.

The final event during Awareness Week is the Walk Against Rape, which will take place on Saturday.  Anyone from USF who wishes to participate should meet outside Gleeson Library at 9 a.m., and we will leave by 9:30 a.m.  The walk is just over three miles and begins at Justin Herman Plaza at 10 a.m. and will conclude with a rally in Dolores Park at noon.

The rally will include speakers, performances, vendors, fundraising prizes, information and resources from several community organizations, the Clothesline Project on display, as well as food and drink.  All proceeds from the day go toward San Francisco Women Against Rape.

Resources for anyone who is dealing with or has dealt with rape or sexual assault are always available at the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Student Resource Center (GSWSRC) located in front of the Market Cafe in UC 200.

Student Arrested on Rape Charge: Acquitted after district attorney office droppped charges

This past Saturday afternoon, students received a Public Safety crime bulletin through their USFconnect email which informed them that a male USF student was “accused of raping a non-USF female, which allegedly occurred Friday night at an off-campus location.” After turning the case over to the San Francisco Police Department, Dan Lawson, director of public safety, said on Monday afternoon that there was a chance that “This case may not be charged.”

As of Monday evening, Lawson confirmed that the San Francisco district attorney’s office had dropped the charge against the unnamed USF student because they did not believe there was enough evidence to take the case to court.  While he could not comment on specific details about the case or the student involved because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which binds the university to privacy regarding student information.  However, he did say, “It is common in many acquaintance rape cases that alcohol is involved.”

Erika Carlsen, senior politics major and member of Students Taking Action Against Sexual Violence, said “I really believe [the way to prevent sexual assault] is education.  A lot of people do not know that a person cannot give consent if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Also to educate the USF community about how many survivors there are in our community personalizes the issue and it becomes more real.”  Lawson offered advice on prevention as well. “Watch out for each other, don’t let yourself be under the influence of drugs and alcohol, which can affect judgment and the ability to identify threats,” he said.

As a result of the awareness prompted by the recent Ryan Caskey case, the USF administration has made an effort to increase education about sexual assault. Carlsen said, “We [Students Taking Action Against Sexual Violence] were really pleased with the way that the university responded this time, both in terms of how quickly they responded in getting the message out and the sensitivity of the message.”

Lawson said that rape is not unique to USF.  He said, “It happens everywhere, but are people encouraged to come forward?”  USF has held several forums and is currently creating a Women’s Resource Center to equip students with essential information about what sexual assault is and how to address it.

Semester Ends With Rape Reflection


Assistant Hall Director Jenna Recupero helped lead the Take Back the Night march last Thursday. The event seeks to make females feel safe from sexual predators by demanding the right to “take back the night.” (Melissa Stihl|Foghorn)

In the semester ensuing four alleged counts of rape by and against USF students, the wounded community took a moment to heal last week with a series of events aimed at sexual violence awareness and prevention.
Major events in the series included an evening event called Create Against Rape, the Take Back the Night march, the Clothesline Project, an art display in the Crossroads Gallery and a display called These Hands Don’t Hurt outside of the Health Promotion Services office.

Though USF hosts some of these events annually, this year they were more powerful in number of events and number of participants. Jenna Recupero, assistant hall director for Gillson and co-chair of the Women’s Empowerment (WE) committee, said, “This year, this particular week was more significant due to events that happened earlier this semester.”

The momentous response to the alleged rapes was triggered long ago. In the months since the original allegations were made public, a grassroots student movement has organized weekly forums in Parina Lounge where the community got together to talk about their concerns about sexual violence on campus.
Calling themselves Students Taking Action Against Sexual Violence, the unofficial club got the attention of some of the school’s top administrators, Dean of Students Mary Wardell, Vice President of University Life Margaret Higgins, and

President Stephen A. Privett, SJ. With persistence, they fought for and achieved reopening a Women’s Resource Center.

“This is a very serious issue and we need to keep it at the forefront of students’ consciousness,” said senior Erika Carlsen, who was one of the students taking action early on after Public Safety announced the rapes had occurred.

The WE committee, usually reserved for resident advisors and Office of Residence Life staff, invited these student activists to join in their efforts this year to make the events stronger.

Other organizations united to host an evening event against sexual assault. Representatives from Residence Hall Association, Lambda Theta Phi, Black Student Union and Delta Zeta, came together to host the first ever Create Against Rape event. Students along with volunteers from San Francisco Women Against Rape (SFWAR) enjoyed an evening of creative responses to rape that included interactive games and poetry readings along with an educational component from SFWAR.

Thursday night, an annual event called Take Back the Night took place. After meeting in Harney Plaza, students marched through the campus and surrounding neighborhood, chanting loudly and garnering honks and waves from supportive vehicle drivers. Afterward they gathered in the Kalmanovitz Amphitheatre to share deeply personal experiences with sexual assault. Many tears were shed. Vice President of Social Justice Alia Al-Sharif, who attended the Take Back the Night event, said, “Having a large audience to share personal stories with in a safe space was very healing.”

The week of events culminated Saturday as many clubs, organizations, and individuals came together to join the greater community by participating in the San Francisco Walk Against Rape, a three-mile walk starting in Justin Herman Plaza and ending in a rally in Dolores Park.

Recupero said she was excited to see how many people from USF and San Francisco at large were there. In only its fourth year, she said, the walk is growing “bigger, more involved,” each year.

Al-Sharif said of the week, “I think it helped the community heal, especially for sexual violence victims and their families.”

Women’s Resource Center to Open

After a tumultuous semester with alleged rapes of USF students and the emotional response that ensued, the USF community will soon be opening a women’s resource center. This will be called the “Peer Educators Women’s Resource Center (PEWRC)” and will be turned over to students to operate.

According to Mary Wardell, dean of students, the PEWRC will most likely open by the end of April. She said that the Center was a result of the student-led campus forums addressing rape and sexual assault.
Wardell said, “This center is a response to what [Rev. Privett, S.J.] heard the students say.”

The campus forums that addressed rape and sexual assault were responses to the Ryan Caskey alleged rapes that were reported two months ago. At the forums, students coordinated and worked together for approximately six weeks to take initiatives on several things that they felt needed to be done, one of which was establishing a center.

“What inspired me to become a part of this movement were the stories of survivors of sexual violence, many of whom are very close to me,” said Erika Carlsen, student and active member of Students Taking Action Against Sexual Violence.

Carlsen also said: “If it’s well publicized it could be an incredible resource to women on campus.”
The issue of publicity came up with the last PEWRC. Years ago, USF actually had a PEWRC named WIRED. According to Wardell, the problem with WIRED was that of access and sustainability; WIRED was a service in the dorms that was not located in a “high traffic area.” As a result of a lack of access, sustainability became difficult to maintain and WIRED eventually closed.

To rectify past mistakes, the new PEWRC will be established in a high traffic area of the UC building. “It’s not the biggest place,” said Wardell, “but it’s very visible.” The center will also be staffed by graduate nurses who are paid; however, that is only one model, said Wardell. She explained that establishing the center would allow students interested in the reduction of violence against women, and other issues such as reproductive health, to come together and share ideas about the programs that the PEWRC would develop overtime.  She said, “The operation is starting without any new financial resources, so our collective ideas and commitment to the center will be important.”

Organizing with students and various working groups, the process has actually been quite speedily and garnered much support. Steve Nygaard, director of the Office of Residence Life, said, “Sexual assault and violence against women is a national issue. A PEWRC can only improve and assist awareness and prevention efforts at USF.”

According to Nygaard, the Center can also have benefits for dorm life. He said, “The PEWRC will be a helpful asset for working with Residence Hall students through passive and active programs.”

As for the center itself, Wardell has said that it would be a place where information and resources on sexual assault can come together. She distinguished the PEWRC as different from typical counselors because it would be student-run. According to Wardell, peer-to-peer assistance has shown to be highly effective.
Carlsen envisioned the center as a “space where women can access a variety of resources and enter a space that is safe for comments, questions, and concerns.” She also wished for it to be a place “full of resources about how to ensure women’s emotional, physical, and sexual health.”

When asked whether the PEWRC would be able to solicit condoms, something which Health Promotion and Services does not do due to the University’s Jesuit affiliation, Wardell laughed and said, “Well, we’re going to find out what we can do.” Wardell reiterated that operating the center would be extremely difficult but ultimately rewarding. Nygaard shared her sentiment by saying, “I think the PEWRC has the potential to be an excellent resource for students.”

He concluded, “One model that might be a next step would be a Gender Equity Resource Center which might also focus on LGBTQ and men’s concerns.”

ROTC Cadets Receive More Sexual Harassment Training Than Other Organizations

Four weeks ago, a few concerned students came together in response to a Public Safety bulletin that informed students about the rape charges against USF student Ryan Caskey. They ultimately decided to create a space for the USF community to come together in an open dialogue and talk about the issue of sexual violence on campus.

“The way Public Safety framed the issue of these four women who have been raped is that this was an isolated incident on campus, taking away from the very widespread culture of rape that we have on this campus, across the nation, and throughout the world,” said Maggie Mullen, senior USF student and one of the organizers of the forum.

‘Rape is Not an Isolated Incident,’ was the title given to the forum in order to address the frequency of the issue.

The intention of the forum was to allow concerned citizens to speak on whatever they wanted to and in whatever format. One of the main topics of discussion was concerning the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program at USF, which has received a lot of criticism.

“[Sexual assault] is an issue that arose a lot of different types of conversations, one of them being ROTC,” Mullen said. “I do think that is a legitimate conversation to have because it is connected to this case, but again, it is only one conversation among many. The forum was not organized with an agenda already in place to poke fingers at people, particularly ROTC.”

Mary Wardell, dean of students of university life, attended the forum and said, “The militarism issue and everything that has to do with the military got attached to this situation. But some people feel that these are separate issues from what the focus of the forum is really about, which is violence against women.”

Lieutenant Colonel Derek Reeve was also in attendance at the forum. Head of the ROTC program at USF, Lt. Col. Reeve has supported getting the issue out in the open and taking actions to deal with it. “When things like this come out of nowhere, we still have to take responsibility, take action to correct it and continue on, making sure everyone understands that we don’t condone this type of behavior,” said Lt. Col. Reeve.

Since the first public meeting, a forum has been held every Thursday in Parina Lounge during the lunch hour. “All we originally planned for was to have a Thursday forum. We had no idea what was going to come out of that,” said Erin-Kate Escobar, another forum organizer and USF senior politics major.

Student activists are now collaborating with other members of the USF community including faculty, administration and the ROTC to help create current change and future prevention of sexual violence on campus.

Within the second forum, various people spoke up about what they wanted to see changed in response to what occurred, and more importantly in response to the much larger issue of sexual violence. A list resulted and people divided themselves into different student committees based on what their interests were and what sort of projects they wanted to work on.

“It turned out to be pretty effective because those groups have been working on their own in whichever way that they feel is necessary. There have been a lot of different people taking leadership roles,” said Mullen.
The various student groups that were formed range from implementing sexual violence awareness in the new student orientation to working with the art department toward creating an art project focusing on sexual violence. One student committee in particular is working with Lt. Col. Reeve on addressing the current sexual violence training for students in the ROTC program.

In reaction to certain opinions said about ROTC, Lt. Col. Reeve is attempting to educate the community about what the program is and is not. “I think the most important thing is that the accusations were against one person in the ROTC program, but they were also made against a student at USF. Neither ROTC nor USF trained him to do that. The actions he is accused of don’t match up to either of the value systems that these institutions have,” he said.

This student committee that developed is concerned with the type of training that ROTC cadets get in terms of sexual violence. Specifically, they are focusing on fostering more educational growth within the program rather than eliminating the program or relying on the army alone to educate cadets on sexual assault.

Feeling that the ROTC program is very isolated, this group of students has created in order to integrate ROTC more onto the USF campus. They hope to create a seminar program that addresses the stress of these issues and the reality of sexual assault.

Escobar said, “We want to create a curriculum for ROTC students that integrates a diversity of subjects and faculty that is more geared toward army situations because this is a population that is going to experience a totally different reality.”

“At the moment the petition is based more on ROTC students but there is also a lot of opportunity here for students to learn more about ROTC,” said Escobar.

Reeve said, “The awareness of the military is a lot lower now than it used to be. There are a smaller percentage of citizens in the military than in the past. So now I think it is even more important to teach people about what ROTC does. I am happy to speak with anyone who has any questions.”

ROTC is a scholarship program that prepares students to be commissioned as officers in the Active Army, Army Reserve, or National Guard. Much of the curriculum is based on leadership training but there are also classes on general Army protocol and background information.

Cadets receive sexual assault training biannually, which is more than anyone else gets on campus.

“They do role-plays, watch videos, which anyone can access on the ROTC web page, and they have open discussions about it,” said Escobar. “But they are also in a totally different population of people who are definitely in a different position of power and authority.”

The student group is working with Lt. Col. Reeve as well as a few ROTC students to figure out what would be most realistic, feasible and enjoyable for all of the students going through ROTC.

“We should, as a university, look at how to educate people, especially freshmen, in the dangers of not being able to make good decisions,” said Reeve.

Although participation has thinned since the first forum, the successive forums have shown that students are taking action for prevention of sexual assault on this campus and are realizing that their concern is necessary for other members of USF community to participate as well.

“I think responses should come from both students and administration,” Mullen said. “It is unfortunate that all of us waited until something horrendous happened to be able to have a movement to reform these kinds of issues and figure out what to do. But I think that now that this has happened, we have the momentum to really do something about it.”

This student movement against sexual violence appears to be able to go one of two ways: fade away and become just another past Public Safety bulletin or sustain itself and actually create positive change here on campus.

As one who has seen how these types of situations can evolve, Wardell said, “It’s so great that we are hearing from students but there are some things that the institution has to materialize. All efforts as good as they are and as passionate as they are at any given time can die if there’s not some way of institutionalizing.”

Acquaintance Rape Not New on USF Campus

University of San Francisco students have made their outcry about the recent allegations of rape and assault on campus heard. A group of student activists have organized and released a clear message: rape is not an isolated incident. In other words, this most recent and highly publicized case of a USF senior Ryan Caskey being charged with four counts of rape and aggravated assault is not the first incident of this nature that has occurred at USF.

These concerned students organized a public forum for the community to discuss their concerns about sexual assault on campus. Though this most recent case sparked the discussion, students wanted to emphasize that rape and sexual assault are ongoing problems.

Barbara Thomas, Ph.D. and director of USF Counseling and Psychological Services, confirmed that rape and sexual assault are more common than most people hear about at USF. In her 20 years of experience at the university, she has talked confidentially with many students who have experienced various forms of sexual assault. Acquaintance rapes, rapes committed by “friends” rather than strangers, are not unusual at USF, but they most often go unreported. They almost always involve drugs or alcohol, and many of these students do not realize they have been raped until Thomas tells them.

Students came to the forum to discuss the general lack of awareness and discussion about sexual assault taking place right here on campus. Many had other grievances as well, such as feeling starved for more information than was provided in USFConnect bulletins. Others complained about the wider-scale problem of a lack of education and programs about sexual violence. Others digressed into a discussion of whether Caskey’s affiliation with ROTC had led to his violence toward women. Emotions were raw on this Thursday, exactly a week after the news had broken of Caskey’s arrest. Some of the individuals at the forum were survivors of sexual assault. Thomas explained that a public incident such as this can reopen those wounds, especially if the individual never fully dealt with those issues after they happened.

Many, such as senior Jennifer Herrera, were concerned that there needs to be more education about sexual assault on campus. As a resident advisor in a freshman residence hall, Herrera said she feels well educated about these issues, but she said, “As a freshman, I wouldn’t have known exactly what qualifies as rape. I know our students aren’t very educated on this subject.”

Thomas said that in her experience at USF, she has not found any means of educational training about sexual violence to be particularly effective, though there have been attempts ranging from education during freshman orientation, informational programs within residence halls and peer counseling for men. But the reality is that these methods of education have been ineffective.

“I don’t want to be defeated by that, but I think the reality is that people just think, ‘That’s not about me; that’s about someone else.’ There’s this inflated sense of safety that’s just not there,” she said.
Thomas’s best idea for creating more awareness about sexual violence is to continue public discussions and open conversations. “Let’s talk about sex,” she said.

Junior Andrew Biederman said similarly at the forum, “We need more discussion between the sexes. It’s important for everyone to come out and say exactly how they feel affected by this to understand each other more and prevent something like this from happening ever again.”

Dan Lawson, director of public safety at USF, encouraged more discussions like the one at the forum.
“I think this is a wonderful thing that’s happening here in regards to this forum,” he said. He only hoped that the conversation would not end as soon as people forgot about this particular incident. He said, “People generally don’t get upset and excited until something terrible happens.”