Special chapel addresses sexual assault, violence issues

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Recent headlines from several high profile universities across the country reveal an alarming upward trend in sexual violence on college campuses.

New studies indicate that the number of reported sexual assault claims is on the rise and will continue to be a key concern for campus communities throughout the country.

On Thursday, Feb. 5, the Lipscomb community had an opportunity to learn more about this issue as well as what resources are available on campus during a special break out chapel program.

A survivor of sexual assault told her story to begin the program. A panel of campus representatives along with community experts shared information about how to identify sexual assault and how to make a difference in these situations. The program was sponsored by the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence and Lipscomb University’s Counseling Center, Office of Residence Life and the Office of Risk Management and Title IX.

“Unfortunately, sexual harassment, assault and violence can be found in many places, even on Christian college campuses,” said Kathy Hargis, Lipscomb University director of risk management and Title IX coordinator. “Education and knowledge is powerful. We can’t live in a bubble. We have to be aware of what’s happening on and off campus.

“Hopefully the more aware students are of risks and of putting themselves in potentially harmful situations, the more protected they will be. By raising the awareness of these issues in our community we hope our students will tailor their lives to make good choices.”

According to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, one in five women and one in 16 men are victims of sexual assault in college. A recent EduRisk study of sexual assault claims in higher education shows that 54 percent of the victims are freshmen, 84 percent of the perpetrators are students at the same college and that 90 percent of the victims know the perpetrator. The study indicates that the perpetrator was most often the victim’s friend, acquaintance, classmate, boyfriend or ex-boyfriend. One in five perpetrators were accused of sexually assaulting more than one student.

“We also know that these crimes are largely under reported,” said Kayce Matthews, of the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence. “With these kinds of numbers, it is imperative that we do everything within our power to reduce and eliminate sexual violence on our campuses and in our community. Hosting awareness events and allowing survivors space to tell their stories sends a message that this community will not tolerate sexual violence and those that come forward as survivors will be treated with dignity and respect.”

The Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence is a resource that supports colleges across the state in their work to respond and prevent sexual and relationship violence on their campuses.

To help give the Lipscomb community an effective way to report sexual assault, among other concerns, the university recently launched an anonymous reporting and prevention program as an enhancement to the existing campus safety program. The new platform, called TIPS (Threat Assessment Incident Management and Prevention Services), allows students, faculty, staff and others from the campus community to confidentially report potentially harmful incidents or concerning behaviors.

TIPS is a web-based tool that allows individuals to anonymously report suspicious activities involving assault, weapons, illegal drug and alcohol use, harassment or intimidation, hazing, vandalism, threats of violence, suicide risk, sexual harassment, abuse, workplace safety, whistle blowing claims and other incidents. The new reporting program will aid the university’s behavioral intervention team in proactively preventing situations from escalating.

If students, faculty, staff, campus guests or others are aware of conditions that adversely affect the Lipscomb University or Lipscomb Academy campuses, the Spark facility in Franklin, Tenn., or have information that warrants concern for safety of the community, the TIPS report incident link may be used to submit this information to university officials. A link is located at the lower right-hand corner of the Lipscomb University website. Once a report is submitted through TIPS, the appropriate campus personnel are notified and an investigation takes place to determine appropriate action. As needed, reports are referred to law enforcement agencies.

“The safety and security of our students and those in the Lipscomb community is a top priority,” said Hargis. “All students, faculty and staff are encouraged to report any type of information they feel relevant, whether it is an off-hand remark made by a student in class, a suspicious individual hanging around outside a building, being a victim or a witness of bullying or harassment or if something just does not feel right. By reporting these incidents, they can be appropriately investigated. We want to be proactive on the prevention side and by using TIPS, we are taking additional steps to further protect the safety of our entire campus community.”

For more information about safety and security at Lipscomb visit safety.lipscomb.edu. For more information about the Tennessee Coalition visit tncoalition.org