AUSTIN, Texas - As students at the University of Texas were scrambling back to class Monday, campus police were busy investigating a reported case of sexual assault.
The call for help came from Jester Hall Saturday night.
"We are still investigating,” said Police Sgt. Samantha Stanford.
FOX-7 Austin was told that the two people who are involved in the case know each other. It’s an example of how delicate this kind of investigation can be.
"A big part, what's really important to us is we want to make sure we are supporting the victim. Not rushing them, not making them feel like that they have to go a certain route make a certain decision. We try to be supportive of them and make sure they know all of their options and can make an educated response to how they want to respond to the situation,” said Stanford.
Since January of this year; five UT students have reported cases of sexual assault. Three off campus and two on campus.
In 2017; there were seven reports. Two off and five on campus.
In a survey of 7,500 UT students last year; 15% claimed they had been raped. 28% said they were victims of unwanted touching and 13% experienced sexual harassment. Administrators described the survey as a wakeup call, but some students are still in the dark about the type of assistance that’s available on campus.
"If that would happen to me, I wouldn't know where to start, in reaching out for help,” said UT Sophomore Mireya Rahman.
There may be those who do have an idea about assistance, but Freshman Rene Menchaca said those people may not know where to find it.
“It should be more accessible, it’s not about more information, it’s about making it more accessible, for the people,” said Menchaca.
The University has safety programs in place. But there are a lot of incoming freshmen and returning students who may have forgotten about those programs or simply don’t know. With that in mind a new initiative is about to be launched. This special webpage is designed to help streamline access to information. It's being linked off of UTPD's main site. A target date for the launch of the new help link on the UTPD site has not yet been set.
The message is simple; you don’t have to suffer in silence and help is available; even if you don’t file charges.
"We're trying to strike down the stigma that there is associated with reporting sexual assaults to law enforcement, we want our students to know if they come forward and report an incident, they are going to be believed, they are not going to be blamed for anything that happened,” said Sgt. Stanford.
The challenge also includes protecting the rights of the accused.
"We give both sides the opportunity to come forward and tell their side of the story so we then can go forward to percent that to the District Attorney’s office and see where the case is going to end up,” said Stanford.
Research has shown that college students are at an increased risk for sexual assault during the first few weeks of the fall and spring semesters. A report titled- risk of “Unwanted Sex for College Women” which was published 10 years ago labeled that time period as the Red Zone.