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Some Campus Sexual Assault Tools Miss Real Threat

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IOWA CITY, Iowa - After a semester that included a lot of discussion about sexual assault at the University of Iowa, students are finishing up finals this week and preparing to head home for a few months. The subject will continue to be a point of discussion when they return.

As part of President Sally Mason’s “Six Point Plan” she has vowed to improve education about sexual assault to the campus community.

Officials with the Rape Victims Advocacy Program (RVAP) in Iowa City say 85 percent of sexual assaults are made by people that are known and trusted by the victim. Officials say that’s often a missed fact, something that could help provide a defense with more education.

“It’s not to say that [stranger rapes] don’t happen,” said Karla Miller, executive director of RVAP. “The vast majority are people that you know.”

While the majority of sexual assaults happen inside apartments, homes or dorm rooms, there are lots of defenses set up to protect students from random attacks on campus.

One of those defenses: the code blue emergency phone, although data from the University shows those machines are rarely being used. Of 16 calls in 2014 through late April, none were for emergencies. One was for a child pushing the button, another for a malfunction and one for a person who lost their glasses and needed help.

“They still have real sentimental value to anyone who has been with the campus, or been associated with the campus for a long time,” said Chuck Green, UI Director of Public Safety. “But with the introduction of cell phones, students can make emergency calls regardless of where they’re located on the campus.”

Green said despite the decline in use, the machines will remain in place. He said about ten of the machines have also had cameras added to the top, making them multi-functional.

“It’ll give our dispatchers an opportunity to see that area at any time,” he said.

Mason’s plan also addresses campus safety concerns with the addition of a new Nite Ride van and the implementation of regular campus safety walks “to improve lighting and other conditions.”

Green said campus safety is a top priority no matter how safe a campus is perceived to be.

Miller said the best defense against the biggest threat, acquaintance rape, is public education.

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