Hopes for a safer Gettysburg: A response to sexual assault

Photo credit: gettysburg.edu

Photo credit: gettysburg.edu

By Jhanvi Ramaiya, Contributing Writer

If you speak to the Department of Public Safety’s Lieutenant Faith Biesecker, you will learn that in the aftermath of increasing sexual assault reports, Gettysburg College is trying to make a difference, starting with the class of 2020.

Sexual assault has been a longstanding issue not only at Gettysburg College, but at campuses around America. Following an assault and murder, the Clery act was established nationwide, a “law passed in 1990 [that] requires all colleges and universities who receive federal funding to share information about crime on campus and their efforts to improve campus safety as well as inform the public of crime in or around campus,” according to the Clery Center’s website. The issue, however, was that sexual assaults “just weren’t being reported,” said Biesecker.

Jennifer McCary, Title IX Coordinator, changed that with the inclusion of the Green Dot program. This training encourages bystander intervention and promotes a culture of reporting assaults. Since its introduction in the last academic year, the rate of reporting has gone up significantly. Of this, Biesecker says, “It hurts me every single time I see a new face and hear a new story – it takes a toll on you, it really does. But it’s also what keeps me coming back day after day.”

In mid-September, Campus Climate study results came out at Gettysburg College, with 10% of respondents sharing history of assault on this campus. This is a jump from the 5% of reports that Gettysburg College reported in 2013, clear proof that reports are becoming more commonplace.

Early August – Gettysburg college’s class of 2020 arrived on campus. By their first month, each of them had to complete one of the five trainings on sexual assault. Lieutenant Beisecker happily shared that 200 participants came to her self-defense training last Saturday. “The more we learn about what’s going wrong, the more we can do to prevent it.”

One of the ways that Gettysburg College is attempting to curb the dramatically high rates of assault in the first few months of a student’s time here is by addressing drinking. Biesecker says, “it can’t be helped, there are such strong ties between intoxication and assault.”

The most talked about method of assault prevention is the social ban. On the 24th of August, Ron Wiafe, Director of Student Rights and Responsibilities sent out an email detailing the consequences of failing to abide by this three-week ban on first year students at events where drinking occurred. Organizations would risk a $1,000 fine, four-week probation period (during which they could not host events with alcohol), and DPS walkthroughs for having a first year present.

These methods have been criticized by students, however. Senior Colin Scotch says, “It delays the problem without addressing it, and I feel it results in a worse situation than if there were no three-week ban. Because of the buildup to it, it’s more explosive than it may otherwise be [when the ban is lifted].”

Beisecker suggested that the college aims for alternative programming that will alleviate the heavy traffic at parties with heavy drinking, and encourages students to suggest alternate programming. Scotch, however, feels that “comprehensive education on college drinking culture and education on understanding one’s own limits (that goes beyond an online quiz that is so incredibly easy to take without actually learning anything) is honestly going to work better than any form of ban would.”

Despite all issues, Lieutenant Biesecker said she only wants to help end sexual violence on college campuses. When asked what she imagined for the future of Gettysburg College’s sexual assault rates, she responded that “I hope to be put out of a job…I hope that it stops. I hope that the senseless violence stops.”

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