Resources Available for Assault Victims

Erin Wilson, Editor

As the issues of sexual assault and sexual harassment gain national attention in the wake of revelations about the checkered history of public figures – including Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and actor Kevin Spacey – students assess their vulnerability to become victims. 

According to Sierra Nevada College’s “Campus Crime Statistics Report,” three incidents of sexual assault have been reported in the last three years. SNC is mandated by law to statistically compile all reports and publish them on the website.

“As a female on campus, yes, I feel pretty safe,” said Sarah Jakel, SNC senior and resident assistant. “I don’t like walking alone in the dark at night because it’s scary, but that’s about it. I don’t put myself in unsafe situations.” 

Hayden Takahashi, another SNC senior and resident assistant, says even in SNC’s small-town, small-campus environment, she remains vigilant.

“Just because I haven’t experienced sexual assault on campus firsthand, that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t happened to other SNC students,” she said.

Sexual assault is an unfortunate part of life on college campuses, and the experience for a victim can be more traumatic if they don’t know where to turn for resolution. SNC, like other United States colleges, must abide by strict regulations regarding reporting and response to sexual assault- and sexual harassment-related crimes to comply with Title IX.

SNC students can find information on school policies and resources related to sexual harassment and assault prevention, counseling services and instructions on how to file a report on sierranevada.edu by searching for “security and safety.”

SNC students receive a student handbook every year via e-mail. It includes descriptions of the school’s Code of Conduct and Title IX. Title IX is a federal law that requires that all students have the same opportunities regardless of gender and are able to attend college in a safe environment. Faculty members are required to be educated about Title IX and its parameters in case they witness an incident, or if one is reported to them.

Victims have access to faculty members who can direct them to countless resources and can assist them every step of the way, including Shannon Beets, provost and Title IX coordinator, Lizzie Thibodeau, director of student affairs and a victim advocate, and Kelly Root, SNC’s on-call counselor. They are trained to support victims, provide help filing police reports, and can even accompany victims to a hospital for examination. 

Beets handles sexual assault and harassment complaints and ensures faculty and staff members are trained to help victims.

“Basically anyone you talk to on campus except Lizzie or Kelly Root has to come to me with a name and a summary of what happened to a victim,” she said. “That doesn’t mean a victim’s name gets published to the entire world, it just means that I’ll call you and ask you if you’re safe, what happened, explain your options, and to have the victim let me know what they want to do next. I’m here to support students.”

As a victim advocate, Thibodeau offers victims information and emotional support, she provides resources and assists victims with paperwork. If a student reports an incident to Thibodeau, they can remain completely anonymous if they choose. 

“The victim advocate title works well with the duties of director of student affairs because I have access to the dorms, easy access to students and students have easy access to me as well,” she said. 

Thibodeau works closely with resident assistants as well, ensuring that as student employees, they also know how to handle incidents of sexual violence. Additionally, all resident assistants are trained by Tahoe Safe Alliance.

“If a victim asks for help or an RA is first on the scene of an incident, our first priority is making sure that the victim knows we are here, they are safe, and that they are in control now even though their control was previously taken from them,” Thibodeau said. 

After an incident is reported to the school, the victim has the option to file a police report, have a rape kit processed by a healthcare professional, receive STD/STI testing and receive counseling. Or they can decide to do nothing further.

If a victim decides to seek medical attention, Thibodeau and/or Beets can accompany them to start treatment. “To get somebody treated we have to go down to Reno to start the process at Renown Health by getting them examined and whatever medical attention they may need,” Thibodeau said.

Root offers confidential counseling. She is on campus by appointment on Wednesdays 12-2 p.m. SNC also offers other counseling services.

Outside of campus, Tahoe Safe Alliance is an alternative for students who don’t feel comfortable meeting with faculty. Tahoe Safe Alliance will give students advice on what to do and where to go, and they can assist students with matters outside of a criminal investigation that focus on their health and well-being, anything from access to morning-after pill contraception to long-term counseling. Tahoe Safe Alliance has offices in Incline Village, Kings Beach and Truckee, and has a 24-hour hotline number: 1-800-736-1060.

“I ask everybody to spend a minute thinking about consent, what it means and to consider it when making their choices,” Beets said.