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PSU faculty and Pittsburg community members answer student questions regarding campus sexual assault response Wednesday, Sept. 26. The panel consisted of members from various departments on and off campus including Campus Police, the Student Life Association, Student Housing, Pittsburg Police, Campus Victim Advocates, Via Christi Health Center and Safehouse Crisis Center. Levi DeWitt

Panel responds to sexual assault

A sexual response panel titled “It’s On Us” was held in the OSC ballroom on Sep. 26 from 7 to 8 p.m., featuring eight panelists: Stephanie Spitz, PSU’s campus victim advocate, Wendy Overstreet, sexual assault nurse examiner, Detective Rebekah Lynch of the Pittsburg Police Department, Stu Hite, director of Pittsburg State University Police, Cindy Johnson, director of institutional equity, Jason Kegler, assistant vice president of student life, Elizabeth Geier, area coordinator of student housing, and Tina Lashley, therapist for Safe House Crisis Center. 

The panelists answered questions that were asked anonymously through a website created for the event, addressing many topics including who to go to first for help, how the Pittsburg State deals with sexual assault reports, costs of getting tested after an assault, and how to report an assault. 

“Nobody ever deserves to be sexually assaulted and it’s never your fault,” Detective Lynch said.  “Understand that we will work with you, but sometimes those tests that Wendy (sexual assault nurse) does at the hospital, those are vitally important.” 

There is no cost to check into Via Christi Hospital and everything is confidential when an assault is reported.  If the victim is 18 or older, parents are not informed of the incident unless the victim expresses otherwise. 

“The amount of sexual assaults that are reported to law enforcement is between 20 to 25 percent and as we know that is highly underreported,” Spitz said.  “…On top of that, the CDC had found, between, there’s been a couple studies that are between 2 to perhaps even 9 percent but really I would say it’s closer to the 2 to 3 percent range of false rape reports out there.” 

Pittsburg State’s trained response team meets once a month at Via Christi to discuss ways to improve the university’s responses and policies surrounding sexual assault. 

“We received acts from the federal government in the form of the Cleary Act which gives us a certain baseline of information that we should be training people, training our faculty members, our staff members on,” Kegler said. 

Detective Lynch said if underage drinking or illegal drugs were involved in a victim’s case, that should not deter them from coming forward and getting help from the UPD.  Kegler also mentioned the university’s “Good Samaritan” policy, which allows students to report a sexual assault without being held responsible if they were partaking in illegal activities when the assault occurred. 

“You’re not alone. People are here, we care, we support you, and please go get help,”
Spitz said.  “Violence is preventable. Sexual assault is preventable. Intimate partner violence is preventable. So, just really making sure that not only do we hold ourselves accountable, but other people around us, so that this does not take place and really be an active bystander for others around you.” 

Stephanie Spitz’s office is located in the Bryant Student Health Center, the UPD is located in the lower level of Shirk Hall, and Via Christi is located on the corner of S Rouse St. and E Centennial Dr.   

 

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