During Forum on Sexual Assault, Univ. of Iowa President Discusses Her Own Experience

By Mark Carlson & Vanessa Miller, Reporters

IOWA CITY, Iowa - During a forum about sexual assault at the University of Iowa Thursday, President Sally Mason opened by saying she was sexually assaulted as an undergraduate student in Lexington, Kentucky in the 1970's.

The comment silenced the room of students and administrators who gathered to hear from the President after her recent comments about sexual assault to the student newspaper. Mason suggested last week that she didn't believe sexual assault is completely avoidable on campus.

Mason said she had never shared the experience before. She recalled walking alone at night when she was approached by a man in a trench coat who grabbed her breast. Mason said she was able to escape her attacker shortly after he grabbed her.

Mason participated in a forum on sexual assaults at the University of Iowa on Thursday afternoon. An estimated 200 people, including students, staff and faculty, were in attendance.

The forum happened after a week of student protests and debate over the university's handling of sexual assaults on campus and an apology from Mason for what she told the student newspaper on the subject.

"Several members of our campus community have let me know that my remarks on sexual assault printed last week in The Daily Iowan were hurtful," Mason said during her public apology Tuesday. "I did not intend them to be, and I am sorry for the pain my words caused."

One group of UI student protestors created a website late Sunday – notinmynature.com – inspired by Mason's comments to the student newspaper that ending sexual assault on campus is "probably not a realistic goal, just given human nature."

The website made several demands of Mason and the university, including that she apologizes for her comments and adopts a "zero tolerance" attitude and policy regarding sexual violence.

"I do want to make my position clear," Mason said Tuesday. "I believe there is no excuse for sexual assault. I have zero tolerance for sexual misconduct. I know that sexual assault is never the fault of the survivor."

UI police have issued eight "timely warnings" this academic year related to reports of sexual assault on or near campus. That is up over last year, partly because there are more reports, the UI is issuing them for more than just stranger sexual assaults and various UI departments are communicating better, UI officials said.

Some students have been upset with the wording in the warnings, saying they place blame on victims by highlighting risk factors – like consuming alcohol or drugs. Revising the content of those emails also is among the student demands.

The Iowa Board of Regents have called a special meeting Friday to "receive an explanation" from University of Iowa President Sally Mason regarding her remarks on sexual assault.
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