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Ian Boyd films a short video of student actors Amanda Norman and Luke Armstrong during production of a series of vignettes highlighting sexual misconduct on campus.
March 05, 2013
MONMOUTH -- Amanda Litzinger said she considers Western Oregon University a "pretty safe" campus overall in the context of incidents of sexual violence.
Indeed, 2011 data from the school's public safety department -- the most recent available -- showed only two incidents classified as forcible sex offense crimes on school grounds that year.
Those numbers don't tell the whole story, said Litzinger, a victim's advocate at Abby's House Center for Women and Families at WOU.
"It's not always sexual assault," she said. "We have a lot of issues of harassment, people stalking ex-boyfriends or girlfriends ... most students don't feel comfortable coming in and reporting it."
The university hopes a new video production undertaken by several organizations on campus and the school's theater department will help.
WOU Campus Against Sexual Assault (CASA)recently unveiled a series of student-written and produced vignettes depicting a spectrum of issues pertaining to sexual violence or misconduct.
Cyber stalking and misunderstandings within cross-cultural dating are a few topics touched upon that do happen on campus, said Mary Ellen Dello Stritto, Abby's House director.
"Part of this program is highlighting services offered here and the possibilities for reporting," Dello Stritto said. "We have many incidents that don't get reported to law enforcement or school administration."
CASAwas created through a $300,000 grant awarded to WOU in 2010 from the U.S. Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women. The videos satisfy an education component, Dello Stritto said.
To produce them, the school called upon students from WOU's theater and improvisation classes to help develop scripts and film shorts on eight topics.
An 8-minute overview of those shorts is available on the university's website, though the full videos won't be available to the public.
"We didn't want to just post them because of triggering reactions for survivors and people who've been through some of these scenarios," she said.
The videos will be used by faculty in the context of teaching criminal justice, health and other disciplines, as well as by the university's health and counseling center.
"Next fall, we'll also do a presentation for all incoming students," Dello Stritto said.
One vignette on stalking illustrates how easily social media and cellphones have made it to track one another; post your work schedule or weekend plans on Facebook and somebody's likely reading it, Dello Stritto said.
Other shorts show a woman confiding in a friend that she may have been raped at a party, and a woman verbally and physically abusing her boyfriend.
"Partner violence isn't always a man hitting a woman," Litzinger said.
Litzinger said she hopes the videos create awareness for both obvious and subtle examples of sexual misconduct. She was the victim of sexual assault by an acquaintance two years ago. Questions or skepticism that sometimes happens during the reporting process can make it hard for some to come forward, she said.
"For myself and others this has happened to ... there's a level of shame," she said. "It's hard to admit you're a victim of something so intimate.
"It's not an easy issue to talk about," she continued. "But that doesn't mean (sexual misconduct) should be talked about any less."
Just The Facts ...
According to campus crime data from the National Center for Victims of Crimes:
* In 2006, an estimated 673,000 (11.5 percent) of nearly 6 million women attending American colleges were raped, and 12 percent of rapes of college women were reported to law enforcement.
* In 2006, 16 percent of victims of forcible sexual assaults and 8 percent of incapacitated victims who were sexually assaulted sought help from a crisis, health, or victims' center.
* In 2006, 13 percent of victims of forcible sexual assaults and 2 percent of incapacitated victims reported their assault to a law enforcement agency.
Referrals by Abby's House Center for Women and Families at Western Oregon University in 2011-12:
* Intimate/domestic violence -- 9
* Rape -- 4
* Sexual assault -- 2
* Harassment -- 2
* Stalking -- 1