Monday, February 15, 2016

Emerging trend on campus: school-sponsored advocates for men accused of sexual assault

The original source is here--make sure to read down to "What peer institutions are doing." This seems to be an emerging trend, thankfully.
New position will advocate for the accused

Students accused of sexual assault now have a designated person to go to if they want advice and advocacy while under investigation.

“The university and PAU Violence thought that it was really important to be able look for solutions... To really help end violence is to be able to engage with both the victim and the respondent,” Respondent Advocate Chris Yanuaria said.

Yanuaria took on this role mid-January under the campus Prevention, Awareness and Understanding Violence Against Women (PAU) program. His job is to advise and advocate for student respondents with information, resources and support in cases of sexual assault, intimate partner violence and other gender-based violence. He also helps coordinate PAU Violence’s prevention education efforts regarding domestic and dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.

According to Women’s Center Coordinator Leslie Cabaingabang, although the PAU Violence program is still under-funded in its efforts to provide prevention education for UH students, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Students is funding this position.

The same rights

UH Spokesman Dan Meisenzahl says this position for students accused of sex assault is the first of its kind at the university, though Title IX and Judicial Student Affairs staff protect the rights of both the respondent and complainant.

While he does not get involved in sexual assault investigations, Yanuaria helps respondents understand their rights and connects them with resources, such as the counseling center on campus and groups in the community.

“[I] sit down and ask them ‘what’s going on in your life?’ and make a genuine connection so that I would be able to understand how to best care for this person and give them the resources that they need to heal and become productive members of the community. And I do all this with compassion and care,” he said.

Under Title IX and UH’s interim Policy and Procedures on Sex Discrimination and Gender-Based Violence, both the complainant and the respondent have the right to equitable due process and resources.

“We absolutely support and appreciate additional resources for all parties involved in these types of incidents,” Meisenzahl said.

What peer institutions are doing

While some of UH Manoa’s peer institutions do not have a dedicated position, they do offer the resource.

At the University of New Mexico, the LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center primarily works with complainants, though if a respondent needs similar services, arrangements will be made, Director Lisa Lindquist said, as it’s another duty of the overall office.

The University of Kentucky also does this as staff from its Office of Student Conduct or Title IX office will speak with respondents about their rights and what to expect in the hearing process, Rhonda Henry, director of the campus Violence Intervention and Prevention Center said.

Respondent advocacy is offered at the University of Illinois through a list of designated volunteers, according to Molly McLay, assistant director of the campus’ Women’s Resource Center. The respondent advocates work in the university in other capacities and are trained by the campus’ student discipline office to be there for anyone who is accused of sexual misconduct.

For Patricia Lacy, University of Oregon’s director of the student government’s advocacy office, the responsibility of advocating for respondents began last summer.

“Providing a service for respondents is equally important to serving the needs of complainants,” she said in an email. “It is vital that the university prove its case against the respondent and that can more effectively occur if the respondent receives assistance in preparing for the meeting with university officials.”

At the University of Utah, Jolene Des Roches, the assistant dean of students for behavioral intervention, holds a similar position.

While the University of South Florida does not have a position dedicated to this function, it is pursuing different avenues to offer the resource, Renee Hunt, director of communication and marketing for Student Affairs, said.

The need for advocacy

Campus Civil Rights Specialist Jill Nunokawa said having such a position provides fairness in the process, though she expects there to be debate about this because it’s taken a long time for society to begin addressing issues like sexual harassment and sexual assault.

“I do view it as part of a shift that we’re making, not just in higher education but a shift in civil society, a shift towards, more towards truth and justice,” Nunokawa said in a phone interview.

While the Associated Students of the University of Hawaii (ASUH) has not formulated an opinion on the position, President Kelly Zakimi believes it gives students direct assistance, allowing them to have a support system.

However, Hannah Liebriech, co-chairperson of the Graduate Student Organization’s advocacy committee, is concerned that the focus would be on the accused and there would be more victim blame.

“My concern would be that if you have a ... position designated to the accused, when in fact [under Title IX] they have equal access to ... the same resources available as the accuser, I think that maybe serves to again perpetuate inequitable distribution of resources in favor of the accused,” she said.

Yanuaria said there’s an impression that he’s taking the side of the perpetrators, though this is not the case.

“I really care about the safety on the UH campus and care about the vulnerable populations and so the way I do that work to prevent violence is by working with those who are the alleged perpetrator,” he said. “I work to help just ensure that abuse doesn’t happen, that no one gets abused again. So my hope is that they really, truly can be productive...And I do this work because I want to help to create a safer and healthier UH community and for all of us and for generations to come. And it’s very difficult work but it’s unbelievably rewarding.”