Viewpoint: Campus safety

By Holly Rider-Milkovich, SAPAC Director
Published July 24, 2011

Recently, the Department of Public Safety issued three campus safety crime alerts to inform University of Michigan community members of sexual assaults near the campus. While these types of stranger assaults are not common on our campus or in Ann Arbor, members of our community may have concerns about their safety or may have experienced emotional distress related to reading news stories about the crimes.

It is important to remember that while sexual assaults do occur on campus, the vast majority of those assaults occur between two people who know each, rather than by a stranger. Research conducted by the National Institute of Justice and the Department of Justice tells us that 90 percent of college students who experience sexual assault on campus know their perpetrator as a classmate, a friend, a significant other, or an acquaintance.

In order to reduce sexual assaults on our campus, we must focus on translating our shared institutional commitment to “create and maintain a respectful and inclusive environment that provides the support and opportunity necessary for each member of our community to prosper and achieve” into effective action when we see opportunities for potential harm. Violence prevention experts refer to this strategy as “bystander intervention.” We think of it as looking out for each other and taking responsibility to help if we encounter troubling situations or if someone is doing something to or with another person that just doesn’t feel right.

While the actions we take will change from person to person and from situation to situation, if we each commit to moving from watching with concern to taking action, we will make our community safer and bring to life our Michigan values of civility, dignity, diversity, education, equality, freedom, honesty and safety. Until that time comes we have a responsibility to survivors of sexual assault to listen to them, believe what they are saying, support them in ways that they choose and connect them to the resources they need to heal.

The Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC) is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through our Crisis Line (734-936-3333). SAPAC provides support and assistance to survivors of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, sexual harassment and stalking in the University community. Our services also are offered to the family members and supporters of survivors. We offer individualized crisis intervention and academic, legal and medical advocacy.

We provide survivors with information to help them make informed choices and we support survivor healing. University community members also may make an appointment to meet with an advocate in person by calling 734-998-9368. Everyone is welcome to stop by our office to speak with our advocate on call Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. SAPAC’s office is located at 715 N. University Ave., Suite 202 on the second floor.

If you have additional concerns, would like more information, or simply want to talk about your experience, SAPAC is here for you. As we approach our 25th year of service to University students, SAPAC is committed to promoting healthy relationships, teaching non-violence and equality and supporting survivor healing. Together we will foster a respectful and safe environment for all members of the University community.

Holly Rider-Milkovich is the director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center.