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Boston University Pledges to Open Up Sexual Assault Center by Fall 2012

Illustration for article titled Boston University Pledges to Open Up Sexual Assault Center by Fall 2012

Earlier this month, we reported on the paltry sexual assault crisis counseling services at Boston University, an issue recently highlighted by the startling number of sexual assault, hazing, and "peeping tom" incidents on and near campus. We wondered why BU wasn't devoting more resources to sexual violence. Now, they are: BU president Robert Brown announced today that he will establish a center for sexual assault crisis and prevention on campus as early as next year.

"We are committed to working to ensure that our academic community is one in which uncivil, violent, or abusive treatment of others is not tolerated," Brown wrote in a letter to the BU community today (see the full text here), "and that we have the appropriate means in place both to reduce the likelihood of such events and to provide strong support to those affected when, despite our best efforts, such events occur."

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Currently, there are only two professional crisis counselors on staff for 30,000+ students; now, according to BU Today, there will be "at least three full-time clinical staff who are specifically training in crisis and sexual assault counseling, as well as one full-time nonclinical "prevention specialist" who will help with training, outreach, and referrals." In addition, all incoming freshmen will attend compulsory "bystander education" classes at orientation.

BU's administration deserves serious credit for listening and responding to the needs of its students. Universities, take note: this is how you respond to rape culture on campus.

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New Crisis Center Planned for Fall [BU Today]

Image via Michelle Weiser's Twitter.

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DISCUSSION

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While I think that many aspects of this proposed center are great, I think survivors of sexual assault might benefit more from counseling from someone who is not on the payroll of the university. I might sound like a Doubting Thomas here, but in my experience higher learning institutions have a not-so-great reputation of sweeping these issues under the rug and encouraging survivors of assault not to prosecute.

I think a good alternative (and one that has been used on my campus) would be for the university to establish a partnership with a local recovery program, whose sole purpose is to counsel and advise survivors minus the bureaucratic barriers a university may impose.

(I want to say again that I think this idea is a wonderful start, but that perhaps there are alternatives that should be considered.)