Univ. of Tulsa President Pushes Victim-Focused Sexual Assault Policies
After a recent string of alleged sexual assaults, the school’s president demands campus security officials call him each time a sexual assault is reported.
President Gerard Clancy, who was hired by the University of Tulsa in November, has informed the school’s campus security department that he wants to be called personally when one of his students is sexually assaulted, even if it is in the middle of the night.
Following a string of sexual assaults on the Oklahoma campus, President Clancy says he “needs to be disturbed” in order to “make things right” at his school, reports Tulsa World.
In June 2017, Lesley Nchanji, a former TU soccer player, was charged with felony rape, sexual battery and two counts of forcible sodomy of a female student at his on-campus residence.
In July 2017, William Barrow, a former TU football player, was charged with felony rape by instrumentation and felony sexual assault of a female student at his on-campus apartment.
In August 2017, Luis Alberto Molina, a former student, was charged with first-degree attempted rape, four counts of sexual battery, seven counts of peeping tom, one count of peeping tom with photographic/electronic equipment, seven counts of first-degree burglary and one count of larceny from a home in connection with a string of burglaries and sexual assaults said to have occurred between February 2016 and October 2016.
Also in August 2017, Colton Bradley, a West Point Military Academy cadet, was charged with raping an acquaintance in her on-campus apartment.
Encouraged Reporting of Sexual Assault
Immediately after his hiring, Clancy reviewed the school’s plan to prevent and address sexual assault in which he encouraged greater reporting of sexual harassment and violence.
In its 2016 Clery report, TU reported 13 forcible sex offenses on campus compared to five in 2015.
“It’s very upsetting; you don’t sleep the rest of the night. But I want the student — the victim — and their parents to know I’m involved and I care enough about it to want to know right away,” says Clancy. “I need to be disturbed about it.”
Aside from being the university president, Clancy is a psychiatrist, which he says is a big motivator behind the changes he is implementing. He says he has seen firsthand the effects sexual assault has on a victim’s mental health and future relationships.
Many students have echoed Clancy’s concerns with how the school has handled sexual assaults in the past.
A climate survey shows that 23.4 percent of TU students believe officials are “not at all likely” or “slightly likely” to take action against a sexual offender. Almost 61 percent agreed that administrators need to do more to protect students from harm.
Results from the survey also show that an alarming number of students consider themselves sexual assault victims compared to what is actually reported.
“What I’ve learned about being in leadership over the years is you’ve got to start by being honest with the numbers,” says Clancy. “Let’s be honest about what’s not right now and, with that, we can make things right moving forward.”
Clancy says he expects the number of reported forcible sexual offenses to increase with the changes.
Changes to TU’s Sexual Assault, Reporting Policies
To ensure comfortability and ease of reporting, Clancy says the school has added more ways for students to report sexual assaults. He also says those who are in charge of handling reports of sexual assault have received new training which emphasizes being “trauma-informed” in order to help victims.
Corporal Julie Friedel, the Department of Campus Security’s dedicated sexual assault investigator, says she received the “trauma-informed” training and has taught it to other security officers.
“Start by believing — it’s a whole different way to look at a victim,” Friedel says is the mentality behind the new training.
“To someone who is not trauma-informed, they might hear certain information and think, ‘Oh, they’re changing their story,’ but when you’re subjected to trauma, how your memory stores events is different,” says Friedel. “It’s also important to understand that victims respond differently to trauma. Some get angry, while some laugh nervously when they’re talking.”
Friedel also says her department works closely with the Tulsa Police sex crime units.
“We always tell [victims] they can file a report with Tulsa Police that does not carry criminal charges. It comes off like a field report instead of an actual criminal report. I encourage them to do that, at the least. That way if the suspect does another sexual assault, there’s at least a trail there.”
A Victim’s Perspective of TU’s Sexual Assault Policies
A TU student who recently shared her sexual assault story in the school’s newspaper says she didn’t file a report against her attacker because she didn’t have confidence in how the school had handled the burglaries and assaults connected to Molina.
A year later, the woman chose to report the sexual assault after Clancy implemented the new reporting policy with Tulsa Police.
“Dr. Clancy has made it really clear that he’s not going to tolerate this,” she says.
Prior to Clancy’s arrival, sexual assault awareness campaigns and prevention efforts were handled by campus groups. Now, the school has funded the hiring of a Title IX coordinator to oversee all sexual assault prevention efforts.
A new grant funding from the U.S. Department of Justice has also allowed the school to hire Kelsey Hancock, the school’s first full-time violence prevention program coordinator.
“The most important thing about what I do here is every piece of our programming is geared toward the idea of prevention,” says Hancock. “Dr. Clancy has tasked every member of our community with being a respectful, responsible and helpful citizen.”
Hancock is currently training every student-run group in “bystander intervention” and is implementing that same training in place of classes where the professor is absent.
“Assaults happen everywhere. The more people report, the more our work is working because they feel safe coming forward and they feel like they can get help,” says Hancock. “For people to come forward and have someone say ‘I believe you’ is the first step in that healing process.”