BATON ROUGE, La (BRPROUD)- The Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response [STAR] responds to LSU’s mishandling of various sexual assault and dating violence complaints that resulted in a ‘lack of accountability’ for repeat offenders of sexual assault and dating violence within LSU’s athletic and fraternity systems.

STAR echoes the concerns raised by students and want to respond to the allegations by providing additional context to the community about what is happening at LSU. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 16 men experience sexual assault while in college.

STAR is a certified, trusted provider of sexual assault support services in Louisiana and has repeatedly offered to assist LSU in ‘developing and improving its efforts to prevent and respond to sexual assault on campus.

STAR says they seen reports that LSU has contracted with a law firm to review its Title IX policies. They agreee with the course of action, but offers additional recommendations for LSU to demonstrate a “true commitment to providing a safe learning environment.

The recommendations are:

Take complaints seriously. One of the things reported in the USA Today article was
athletic coaches not believing or taking seriously reports of sexual assault and dating
violence. As an institution, how is LSU holding its staff, even highly valued staff, responsible
for taking complaints seriously? How is it rewarding those who do take complaints
seriously and take appropriate action? There are many reasons why organizational
leaders may not want to take complaints seriously. Such complaints can be disruptive to
organizations, relationships, and short-term profits. However, there is nothing more
important than taking complaints of sexual assault seriously. Doing so requires pushing
through fear and uncertainty. It also requires allowing for the possibility that the assault
occurred. Taking complaints seriously is the brave, responsible, and necessary thing to
do.

Publicize multiple options for students considering reporting or needing support. Students
may not want to report their assault right away or they may not trust LSU’s support
services for students who have experienced sexual assault, especially now. Providing
information about STAR’s services in public statements regarding sexual assault, even if
that is ultimately challenging to LSU as an institution, would demonstrate a greater
commitment to students’ safety and well-being.

Contract with an outside victim services agency to provide holistic consulting regarding
sexual assault prevention and response efforts.
Consulting with law firms to review legal
compliance is necessary, however compliance alone won’t effectively address the
problem sexual assault on campus. STAR staff have a wealth of knowledge about the
issue of sexual assault. In addition to our direct connection to LSU, we provide training
and consulting services that are highly regarded.

Acknowledge and confront the problem. Minimizing, downplaying, or denying the
problem is not an option.
Now is a time for leaders at LSU to learn about and
acknowledge the problem to inform change and/or better enforce systems. We
recognize that this is an institutional issue and we know there are individual employees at
LSU who genuinely care about and do their best to support survivors on campus.
However, this is clearly not enough. More is required, and it needs to start at the top.
While there may be short-term costs to doing this, the longer-term financial and
reputational costs of not doing so will be much greater.

Hold offenders accountable. In the USA Today report, one survivor expressed her belief
that LSU is afraid of lawsuits filed by those accused of sexual assault. First of all, this is why
ensuring survivors’ access to legal representation is crucial to balancing power between
those who have experienced sexual assault and those who have committed it. Survivors
also have rights and can file lawsuits, too. Second, making decisions to not hold
offenders accountable out of this fear is replicating the same fear students have in not
coming forward. It is the job of the institution to model facing fears and facing costs to
hold accountable those who are creating an unsafe environment for others.

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