Campus, News

Office of Equity and Diversity provides care and support for survivors of sexual assault

Trigger warning: This article mentions sexual assault and harassment.

As students return to Long Beach State, the Title IX office is prepared to provide the necessary support to students who have experienced sexual assault on campus.

First-year students are more likely to face unwanted sexual advances than other students on campus, according to research done in 2008 by the Journal of American College Health.

The “Risk of Unwanted Sex for College Women: Evidence for a Red Zone” report revealed the first six weeks of a new semester are when campuses receive a large spike in reports of sexual assault, especially among first-year students.

The study revealed that 46% of the first-year students who were surveyed experienced sexual assault from the first month that school began through Thanksgiving Break.

Jacqueline Urtez, a campus confidential advocate for Not Alone at the Beach (NATB), provides support to students who have been sexually assaulted by giving them counseling information, legal steps, and physical and mental care.

From the time students come to campus on move-in day, Urtez said she typically receives a “50% increase of reports of sexual assault.”

“There are new parties, people wanting to rush into student organizations,” Urtez said. “New students are vulnerable because they really want to be part of a community and sometimes there are societal pressures around that may lead to unsafe behaviors.”

Last year, the Office of Equity and Diversity (OED) received more reports of domestic abuse and dating violence than they did reports of sexual assault occurring on campus.

“The sexual assault and misconduct cases that were reported weren’t happening in clusters as we’d see in a normal semester,” Larisa Hamada, vice president of the OED, said. “We’d usually see a spike during rush week, spring break, or Halloween weekend when we get a big push.”

A recently published Title IX report for CSULB campuses revealed that there were 110 reports of sexual misconduct, dating, domestic violence, and stalking investigations. 16 of those cases involved students and four involved campus employees.

For the current semester, Hamada said it’s hard to predict what the number of reports will be.

“I think students are doing a lot of things on their own right now,” Hamada said. “But our dorms are full, and we’re at 40,000 students, so we’ve got a full population.”

CSULB administration and employees use trauma-informed care and training when responding to sexual assault reports on and off-campus, Hamada said.

The OED team hosts consistent training to any leaders of at-risk groups, “including resident assistants, athletic coaches, student tutors, department chairs, sorority and fraternity life leaders.”

At-risk groups include first-year students, who are considered more vulnerable than other students who have been on campus before. Hamada said that since first-year students are seeking friends or trying to make connections on campus, they become more vulnerable at parties, Greek life rushing, and off-campus gatherings.

Hamada said that they train these specific groups because they directly serve first-year students who might feel comfortable coming forward to them and report that they’ve been assaulted.

“They receive ongoing training on trauma-informed care,” Hamada said. “We know a lot of students may speak to them to get help.”

In addition to the training provided for CSULB employees, students are also required to complete Title IX training by Monday, Oct. 11, or they will receive a hold on their record. Having a registration hold can prevent a student from registering for classes.

CSULB Police Captain John Brockie oversees the detective bureau that investigates reports of sexual assault.

“This is a multi-department effort,” Brockie said. “The majority of sexual assaults are reported to the Office of Equity and Diversity, which is in charge of Title IX, or they can also come to us.”

Brockie said that when a case is reported, there is a collaborative response with the Title IX offices and with Urtez, who provides personalized support where campus police and employees must act as public service officials and investigate the case from a neutral standpoint.

As vice president of the Office of Equity and Diversity, Hamada’s role is to act as an investigator when a sexual assault has been reported.

“Most of our employees cannot go off-campus with students, but Jacqueline [Urtez] can go off campus and into a courtroom to assist a student with getting a temporary restraining order,” Hamada said. “She can go off campus and do an accompaniment for a forensic exam.”

As a state-licensed confidential advocate, Urtez’s role is to reach out to students to extend help and options if students would like to move forward in seeking temporary restraining orders, forensic exams, or crisis counseling. Urtez works separately from the Title IX offices and campus police, so she is not obligated to report any information on a student’s case.

“They don’t have to make a decision right away,” Urtez said. “It’s really about giving students the options of what’s available to them and figuring out how I can support them through these processes.”

Urtez and the OED are primarily meeting with students over Zoom to follow COVID-19 safety protocols but can request in-person accompaniment on a case-by-case basis.

Students seeking support can contact Jacqueline Urtez at (562) 985-2668 or [email protected], reach the Office of Equity and Diversity at (562) 985-8256 (for non-urgent inquiries, or fill out an online report form listed on https://www.csulb.edu/equity-diversity.

For emergency support regarding sexual assault, students can contact the YWCA Sexual Assault Crisis Services 24 Hour phone line at (877) 943-5778 or visit their website at ywca.org.

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