USM offers help for victims of sexual assault

USM offers help for victims of sexual assault

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The sexual assault case at Stanford University is raising concerns about how universities and colleges handle sexual assault cases.

Southern Miss said it is a priority to protect victims.

Detective Captain Rusty Keyes with the University Police Department said a sexual assault report starts with the victim telling someone of authority about the incident.

"You've got to tell the person that you trust," Keyes said. "Your confidant. It may be an adviser, it may be a faculty member, may be a resident's life member."

A student then fills out a report that is sent to university police.

Keyes said the university has seen an increase in the number of rapes reported on campus in the past few years.

"In '12, '13, '14 those numbers you may see zero or you may see one," Keyes said. "In 2015, we had four rapes reported here on campus. Those have been investigated and cleared."

He said more victims are reporting cases due to the increasing amount of resources and programs available to students. University Police often refer students to university counseling.

"We try to ask them and let them decide what they need so it might be weekly counseling session, it might be that they need more of a victim advocate who would kind of help them through the process of Title IX or through the court process if they've decided to press charges," said Deena Crawford, director of Student Counseling Services.

USM Student Government Association is also taking a stand against sexual assault and misconduct with a new campaign.

"The 'It's On Us Campaign' is geared at bystander awareness and intervention. It takes the responsibility off the victims and puts it on us as a campus," Campaign Director Carlee Welch-Dick said.

The campaign, created by the White House, came to the university in 2014.

Students help their peers understand what constitutes as sexual assault and how to seek help.

"There are so many cases that probably go unreported simply because people don't understand that that's assault and that needs to be reported," Welch-Dick said.