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Alleged assaults at CSB/SJU

A sexual assault last week is part of a growing number of sexual assaults reported at St. Ben’s and St. John’s, totaling five allegations so far this academic year.

SJU Life Safety is still investigating a sexual assault that was reported on March 1. Officials would only say that it did not involve a St. Ben’s or St. John’s student and did not occur in an undergraduate residential hall.

This incident follows two alleged sexual assault cases that were reported during the weekend of Feb. 16. Campus security and local law enforcement are investigating the two cases, both between St. Ben’s and St. John’s students. The cases are not related. One case occurred at the St. John’s campus and the other at an off-campus location in St. Joseph.

“This investigation will continue to move forward, and what we will try to do is make a determination if there’s been a policy violation according to our Joint Sexual Assault Policy,” SJU Dean of Students Mike Connolly said.

Campus security did not comment on further details due to the pending investigations.

CSB Director of Security Darren Swanson said that the number of cases this year is slightly higher than usual. During the last three years, no cases of sexual offenses were reported at St. Ben’s, according to the annual crime report. St. John’s received one case of a forcible sexual offense in 2011.

“It is one of the most underreported crimes for various reasons,” Swanson said. “Our community is very close-knit. Most times the alleged victim and the alleged suspect know each other … In our bubble of St. Ben’s and St. John’s, a good number of people know each other which makes it more difficult to report.”

In cases of sexual assaults, CSB/SJU has defined its policies in the Joint Sexual Assault Policy and has an official procedure for filing complaints.

CSB Dean of Students Jody Terhaar said that CSB/SJU’s policy encompasses a wide-range of sexual behaviors.

“(In) our policy, in general, sexual assault covers a wide-range of behaviors,” Terhaar said. “It could be touching; it could be groping. It doesn’t just mean penetration and what people sometimes think of in their head.”

Students feel that the sexual assaults have altered the sense of safety on campus and wish that the institutions would react more.

“I think it’s alarming we’ve had so many cases of sexual assault and our campus has only sent an email,” senior Maddie Hansen said. “I would like to see more action and more dialogue between students, staff and faculty about what’s going on about how we, as students, can be safer.”

Both Connolly and Terhaar said they’re taking this matter seriously.

“When any kind of incident of this nature comes up, we’re always greatly concerned,” Connolly said.