Editor’s Note: This story is the fifth and final in the Kansan’s series on sexual assault at the University in conjunction with Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
In the past few years, as instances of sexual assault have increased at the University, the Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access has reported that instances of domestic abuse and stalking have increased as well.
At the University, the two areas in the Student Code of Rights and Responsibilities that encompass sexual harassment and violence don’t just include things such as sexual discrimination and rape. They also include instances of domestic violence and stalking.
“Stalking is not accidental. It is an intentional effort to get any type of attention from that person, even if its negative,” IOA Director Shane McCreery said.
McCreery said the IOA — which is responsible for investigating instances of sexual assault at the University — has seen a large amount of these cases in the last few years. And, as he described, these instances range in their complexity and seriousness, sometimes overlapping with sexual assault.
“We’ve seen a rise,” McCreery said. “And I think it's because some students think, ‘If I ignore it, it’ll eventually stop.’”
The KU Public Safety Office received three reports of stalking and four reports of domestic violence in 2017, according to Deputy Chief James Anguiano. Since KU PSO officers are mandatory reporters, all of these reports were forwarded to the IOA.
Reports made to the IOA, in any case, result in an initial communication to the reporting party, or survivor. Regardless of whether a party wants to move forward with an investigation, McCreery said that interim measures are offered. One of these interim measures is a no contact order.
“That includes not just contacting face to face, but through any type of social media [or] through third parties,” McCreery said. “It’s not like a restraining order where one party can’t come within 500 feet of another, but it does prevent them from communicating as we determine what happens.”
There are also options for resolving housing or academic conflicts between reporting and responding parties. McCreery said his office works with advisers and student housing in these instances if students need to change classes or housing. In past cases, McCreery said the IOA worked with large apartment complexes to help students break leases or move apartments. One option available to students in these instances is Legal Services for Students.
Although Legal Services for Students can help with disputes between tenants and landlords, they cannot settle disputes between students. LSS Executive Director Jo Hardesty said this is because of the way the office gets its funding — through a required campus fee. LSS receives $16 per student.
“Basically all students have pre-paid for the service,” Hardesty said. “So we’re on retainer for everyone in the student body.”
Another option available to students and Lawrence community members at large is the Willow Domestic Violence Center. Will Averill serves as director of community engagement of the center, which offers copious amounts of outreach services, training, a 24-hour-hotline and a shelter. The center also does preventive work focused on educating individuals, including students, on what healthy relationships look like.
“People don’t always equate healthy relationships with college relationships. Or college is seen as a time when you’re supposed to be exploring all of your boundaries,” Averill said. “Therefore, it's easier to forgive what is in fact an abusive relationship.”
The center has established programs to help change and educate on these attitudes, according to Averill, and has brought them to middle and high schools throughout Lawrence. The center even has a local branch of students at the University that do advocacy and education work also centered on changing the attitudes of students.
“Anytime you’re in a situation where you’re not in control of the situation and someone else is controlling the situation, it is an abuse issue and it is something to be taken very seriously,” Averill said. “We would love to see that attitude change.”