By Zainab Iqbal
Published: November 14th, 2018
When a student is sexually assaulted or harassed, their first instinct might be to stay silent. After choosing to stay silent for a while, the next thing they might do is go to the Title IX office to file a complaint, which is advertised all throughout campus. But, if the traumatic incident occurred off campus, Title IX can be very blurry.
Christine DeLisser claims she was sexually assaulted at the Residence Hall at Brooklyn College (RHBC) last year. At the time, she was a Brooklyn College student (and has now graduated). After staying silent for a while, she finally gained the courage to speak out. With the help of Andy Auguste, the Coordinator of Residential Living at the time, and Chris Omar, a filmmaker documenting sexual assault at RHBC, she went to the Title IX office and met with Patricio Jimenez on October 11, 2017. DeLisser claims that Jimenez gave her sheets to fill out.
According to DeLisser, she never heard back, besides hearing the College’s Title IX office could not do anything because the College has no jurisdiction over RHBC. She says she was never updated on anything. She doesn’t even know if an investigation was conducted.
Experiencing sexual assault is very traumatizing. It is not something you can easily put in the back of your mind. Which is why I am confused as to why Title IX did not investigate DeLisser’s complaint. Saying that the College “does not have jurisdiction” over RHBC is not a good enough excuse. Students go to Title IX because it’s familiar and because it is advertised all throughout campus and RHBC.
This is all why I believe students should go to Public Safety first after experiencing sexual misconduct, whether or not it happened on or off campus. There’s a detective in the Public Safety office that specifically deals with investigating crimes such as sexual assault. I spoke with Donald Wenz, the chief of Public Safety, who said that a student’s problems are their first priority. And according to the officer, it does not matter if the crime took place on or off campus. They will do a full investigation while keeping the student updated.
“Public Safety is on campus 24 /7. Not true of other offices. The earliest Public Safety is informed and gets involved the earlier an investigation can begin and even perhaps apprehend the suspect. Public Safety will assist in reporting crimes to the Police Department and will assist the victim with all available resources and services such as escorts, assist with filing charges, inform the student of rights etc.,” Wenz said. “We have on staff a Special Victims Investigator who has been trained in assisting victims of sex crimes, sexual harassment and harassment. In Title IX cases, we will forward all preliminary findings to the Title IX Coordinator and Student Affairs, if appropriate, for follow up investigations. Even if the crime did not take place on campus we will assist the student who is the victim. Copies of all reports filed by a student will be given to the student on request.”
After being sexually assaulted, a student should not have to continue to walk on campus in fear. Nor live in RHBC in fear. If Title IX is prioritized on campus in dealing with sexual assault concerns, so should Public Safety.