Twice a week, freshman psychology and pre-occupational therapy major Katie Ellsworth walks from her job at the Stierwalt Alumni House to her residence hall on the north side of campus after dark. Ellsworth does not feel unsafe on those walks, but recognizes that walking alone in the dark is a vulnerable situation to be in.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college. More than 90 percent of those victims don’t report the assault. The NSVRC also reports that among college women, 9 of 10 victims who were sexually assaulted knew their offender.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the University of Indianapolis is promoting awareness through various events, including a self-defense workshop and bystander intervention training. This promotion of personal safety awareness is something that the UIndy Police Department and Chief of Police David Selby are committed to and constantly doing.
One of the things that Selby and his officers are committed to is the UIndy PACT. PACT stands for Protect, Advocate, Communicate and Transform. It is a campus-wide movement to spread awareness about sexual violence, relationship abuse, harassment and violence prevention, bystander education and more.
“I committed to PACT, I committed to signing the petition and my guys signed the petition,” Selby said. “We believe very strongly that it’s our responsibility as police officers, [and] our responsibility as community members, to take care of our community and the people in our community.”
Selby created a public safety webpage that can be accessed via MyUIndy. On the page, students can find safety tips and warning signs, emergency management, fire safety, and Title IX information, report sexual assaults and other offenses, and sign the UIndy PACT.
“Sexual assault is one of the least-reported things. I haven’t received one since I’ve been here,” Selby said. “What we [Campus Police] try to do is train people to take personal responsibility for their safety, utilize the stuff that we have on campus and then educate themselves. I would encourage students to get on and read this information.”
Campus Police also offers a number of on-campus safety measures, including emergency telephones around campus, card access to residence halls, Watchdog and multiple ways to report assaults and other offenses anonymously. This year, the department also added two new programs to help with student safety.
The first is the dispatch partnership with the Marion County Emergency Communication. Because of this partnership, when a student calls 911, Campus Police and other emergency services, such as Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, will immediately be notified and dispatched.
“When you call 911 now, everybody’s going to hear about it. IMPD, us, we all listen to the same radio,” Selby said. “It’s not like we’re isolated in our own world now. We have people listening that I don’t have to call [for backup] because they hear it, and they’re [already] on their way.”
The other new addition to campus safety is an escort program. If a student feels uneasy walking alone on campus at night, he or she can call Campus Police and an officer will escort him or her to the desired destination. According to Selby, very few students have taken advantage of this program. However, Ellsworth could see herself using the service.
“I usually call someone, and they just stay on the phone with me until I get back to my dorm,” she said. “[But] if I felt unsafe, I would use it [the escort program].”
While these measures increase safety on campus, Selby also emphasizes the importance of students taking responsibility for their own personal safety.
“When a student comes here, there’s a policeman at their beck and call, or within a mile of them, at all times, so our response time is a minute or two,” Selby said. “When you leave here and you go to Chicago, or you go to St. Louis, or just here in Indianapolis . . . you may wait two hours. The point is, not only are we protecting you here, but we’re educating you, because when you leave here, you have to take some responsibility for your own personal safety.”
Limiting risks is one of the ways that students can take responsibility for their personal safety, Selby said.
“It’s all about mitigating the risk that you have so something bad doesn’t happen,” he said.
He suggested that students walk in groups across campus late at night or call for an escort, lock their rooms when going to bed, not prop the residence hall doors open and learn the warning signs of abusive and other violent behaviors.
If a student is sexually assaulted, he or she should go to the police immediately, Selby said, whether it is Campus Police or IMPD. He or she should refrain from showering and changing clothes. While speaking with the police, the student can choose to press charges or to have something administratively done.
To limit the risk of sexual assault or other violent attacks, Selby also strongly encourages that students share what is going on in their lives, especially when it comes to first meetings.
“Tell people. If you’re having problems with some guy, come talk to me, talk to whoever you feel comfortable about [talking to], but talk to somebody,” Selby said. “Don’t make it a secret. You have friends. If you’re going out with this guy for the first time, let people know. That way, if you don’t show up or you’re missing, then when I go talking to people, now I know who to go talk to. Don’t keep it a secret, let people know what’s going on. That’s part of this whole being part of the community [and] taking care of each other.”
According to Selby, the bottom line is for students to take responsibility for their personal safety, to prevent sexual assault and other safety violations.
“I stress that they [students] take some responsibility for their own personal safety,” Selby said, “educate themselves, and join us in protecting our community.”