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U of O scandal puts focus on campus sex assaults

By Femi Abebefe
Published On: May 10 2014 03:12:55 AM CDT

NewsChannel 21's Femi Abebefe spoke with Saving Grace and Oregon State University to hear their thoughts on the U of O sex abuse scandal.

BEND, Ore. -

The recent sexual assault allegations involving three University of Oregon basketball players have put a renewed focus on what many experts call a nationwide epidemic.

The three players who were investigated but not charged in an alleged sexual assault have been dismissed from the team, school officials announced Friday.

The White House and President Barack Obama recently took action to curb sexual assaults on college campuses, but just how much do we know about the problem?

Late last month, the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault said colleges must take steps to curb violence that has long plagued women at schools across the country.

"No one wants it to happen,” Lauren Biskind, development director at Saving Grace,  a Bend non-profit that offers family violence and sexual assault services. “When it does, we have to proactively respond and be there for the victim."

Oregon State University has a code of student conduct policy that has zero tolerance for sexual assault.

"It could result in matters such as conduct probation or expulsion," said Steve Clark, the vice president of university relations.

Clark also notes that it's the university's job to allow law enforcement to fully investigate the situation.

Studies show 60 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police, according to Biskind, who said victim blaming is one of the reasons why that's the case. When people call the accuser into question, many others may not come forward.

"It's easy for people to speculate and say, 'Well, she shouldn't have been wearing this,' or 'She shouldn't have been in this place,' or 'she shouldn't have walked to the car by herself,'" Biskind said.

That’s not the only stereotype surrounding the crime.

"Often, people think it happens to people walking down the street by a complete stranger,” Clark said. “Actually, more times than not, cases come forward of folks that know each other."

According to the White House, one in five college-aged women are sexually assaulted while attending school -- an uncomfortable trend universities are trying to end.

"Our first priority as a university, is to provide for the security and safety of our community, and we take that role and responsibility very seriously," Clark said.

Central Oregon Community College also has a zero tolerance policy for sexual misconduct. Saving Grace said they work as a resource for both COCC and OSU-Cascades students who may be in need.

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