By: DALILA KAHVEDZIC
Sexual assault awareness is an important issue for the community, William Woodward said, STLCC’s Title IX Coordinator.
Woodward spoke at Meramec’s sexual assault harassment awareness forum held on Wednesday, April 6, on the Meramec campus.
This effort started last year, Woodward said.
“We wanted to make sure that we continue it because it is an important issue for us as a community,” Woodward said. “We do these forums throughout the college as a part of sexual assault awareness month – as the Title IX coordinator, it is my responsibility to make sure that we as a college are responding appropriately to issues regarding sexual misconduct on campus.”
STLCC’s administration really wanted to highlight what resources are available to students and staff on campus. Not only should these resources stay on the campus – but they should go home to friends and family as well, Woodward said.
“Neighbors or family members may also be impacted by these issues, so we know that it’s important to have information on community resources that those numbers can utilize as well and have available to them,” Woodward said. “And so that’s what I feel like is our responsibility as a community college.”
Chief of campus police, Anthony Russo, spoke at the forum as well.
“The family violence center – they’re our partners. You don’t realize what a great deal that is for the St. Louis Community College. They really represent over 25 organizations that are all there for our support – for victim support, for community support,” Russo said.
The phenomena in domestic violence are the victims, Russo said.
“They [victims] tell someone to kind of burn it off their shoulder – they feel better and think, ‘ah, I’m not going to go report it’ and a lot of things would go unreported,” Russo said.
The campus police have a lot of authority to do certain things, Russo said, but when it comes to really giving support and helping people, sometimes the best thing to do is call a professional in.
“Your air conditioner is broken – you call an HVAC person in. Well these are our pros; they’re the ones that we call when we need support and it’s in addition to all the support we have on campus. They work in connection with our council, it’s just another resource for us to go to,” Russo said. “We prefer that you report it to the police but there’s a lot of times where people are just apprehensive to tell the police something.”
Reporting any misconduct is important, Russo said.
“It’s like anything else – you have people walking up and down your street – it’s important to report it to the police so they can start seeing a pattern,” Russo said. “It’s the same thing on the campus with sexual violence, domestic violence – and that includes anything away from campus. Someone comes in and says they were in Arnold, MO and their spouse slapped them and they have an obvious injury – or not – you have to report that.”
Sometimes the victim may be a little reluctant, but that is where the counselors come in big time and talk the individual down the right path to getting help, Russo said.
“If you would rather have this remain confidential, we encourage you to talk with one of our counseling staff members and through the counseling process – make some determination.”
If a victim chooses to remain anonymous, there are ways around that to still help the situation while keeping the victim anonymous, Russo said.
“We actually had a female come in and she said, ‘I want to report this but I want to remain anonymous,’ and we knew who she was, but you know what? We guaranteed her anonymity. Unless you tell someone else, we’re not telling anybody. We investigated it and fortunately, we got a positive outcome,” Russo said. “We got support for the student – that’s the positive outcome.”
To know what is going on around campus is what campus police is here for, Russo said.
“We want to know what’s going on on this campus, but we want to know who we need to keep our eyes on. We might not be able to arrest them or do whatever, but we can certainly do that police thing – I got my eyes on you – you know, and kind of get in their space a little bit,” Russo said. “It’s about the students getting the support that they need.”