Michigan State University is under scrutiny for its actions after hundreds of women accused MSU physician Larry Nassar of sexual abuse. These events have led communities to examine how their local universities respond to these types of allegations.
Nassar was the doctor entrusted by Michigan State and Twistars USA Gymnastics Club to care for sport-related injuries. Both MSU and Twistars have faced public backlash, with many focusing on the number of years from when the abuse first started until it was finally brought to an end.
Nassar’s abuse began as early as 1994, and universities across the country want to ensure this never happens to their students.
Relatively small in size compared to other universities in Utah, Weber State University is not immune to sexual assault. With a slight increase from the three previous years, Weber State University Police Department documented 12 sexual assault cases in 2016, all on campus, with five occurring in student housing.
Rape is the most underreported crime in the United States, and institutions of higher education are not immune to this fact. One in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
While there is a lapse in protecting all who become victims of sexual assault, Congress attempted to ensure safety on college campuses by enacting the Cleary Act in 1990.
To honor the memory of a college student who was raped and murdered, the Cleary Act holds institutions of higher education responsible for disclosing any and all information about crime, including sexual assault on and around campuses.
Weber State University Police Department, in compliance with the Cleary Act, issues an annual security report depicting all reported crime for that period.
The Utah Department of Health found higher rates of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse in the state than that of the national average.
According to clinical mental health counselor Donna Hunter, sexual assault, which is similar to other forms of abuse, has always been a part of society.
Among efforts set forth by Weber State to improve safety for students, faculty and staff, the Counseling and Psychological Services Center along with the Women’s Center exist to offer survivors support and options.
Whether or not a victim of sexual assault chooses to move through the process of pressing charges, mental health providers and staff of the Women’s Center are confidential resources and are not required to divulge any information unless asked by the victim.
Hunter prefers to build a relationships of trust with her patients where they can discuss what they want when they’re ready.
Safe@Weber Survivor Advocate Paige Davies offers a variety of services as part of the Women’s Center. She helps students in need of civil protective orders/injunctions, reclassification of housing, legal and financial resources, assistance with possible academic accommodations or medical services.