Vice President Joe Biden did not mince words when he spoke to university representatives across the country in a teleconference on sexual violence.
“There is no tolerance – no tolerance – none, zero” when it comes to allowing a culture on campus that does not treat sexual assault seriously, Biden said. A day earlier, he delivered an impassioned address at the University of New Hampshire that spoke directly to male students.
“You want to measure your manhood? Measure it based on the gumption you have to speak up” against sexual violence.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan joined Biden last month April in calling for a renewed commitment to campus safety and the proper treatment of victims of sexual assault. One of the prescriptions they offered was Title IX, which is most commonly known for prohibiting sex-based discrimination in athletics but has much broader applications that apply to sexual harassment and assaults.
“Every school would like to believe it is immune from sexual violence, but the facts suggest otherwise,” Duncan said.
Sexual assault is widely considered the most underreported violent crime in America, according to the National Institute of Justice. “Most sexual assaults on campus are committed by an acquaintance of the victim, which explains in part why these crimes are underreported,” the institute says.
Three cases of sexual battery were reported at Cal Poly Pomona and one in the residences in 2009, the most recent year for campus crime data. No rapes or sexual assaults were reported to police, though one was reported to other officials on campus.
“No means no,” says Chief Michael Guerin of the University Police Department. “If someone does not desire intimate contact, or is incapable of consenting due to alcohol, drugs or any other reason, to proceed is to break the law.”
Guerin added that the department prosecutes these cases vigorously and encourages reporting of any incident. “We even have an anonymous tip line in case someone has second thoughts about coming forward to file a report.” That number, (909) 869-3399 is not for crimes in progress, but for gathering anonymous information about crime on campus.
The Violence Prevention & Women’s Resource Center offers a wide range of programs and resources for both women and men. Crisis intervention and advocacy, violence prevention programming and training, and assistance in obtaining restraining orders are among the services provided.
The center has submitted a $300,000 federal grant application to broaden its outreach further.
Erika Zepeda, coordinator of the Violence Prevention & Women’s Resource Center, says the center is committed to providing survivors and those who support them with information about their rights, options and the resources they can tap both on and off campus.
“A police report is not required to receive advocacy,” Zepeda says. “Our advocates partner closely with the local rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters and the Los Angeles County District Attorney Victim Witness Compensation Program to provide a coordinated campus response to sexual assault.”
Other resources include Counseling & Psychological Service, Student Health Services and, off campus, Project Sister Family Services, which is a rape crisis center.
Guerin says victims of sexual violence need to know there are places they can turn to for help.
“We have an active, professional police department and a number of campus and community-based organizations available to assist survivors of sexual assault,” he says. “Even if a survivor doesn’t want to take a case through the criminal justice system, I hope they contact one of those resources to get the help they need after such a crisis.”
The Violence Prevention & Women’s Resource Center is located in Building 95, across from the Career Center. For more information, call (909) 869-3112 or visit http://dsa.cpp.edu/vpwrc.