Campus Safety and Title IX

On Aug. 26, a student was sexually assaulted off campus at their home located in the Madison Avenue area of Bridgeport. 

According to an email sent by Jack Fernandez, Director of Public Safety, the perpetrator knocked on the door, forced entry into the student’s home and then attacked them. After attempting to leave, he was caught by police and taken into custody.

This incident has raised some concern from fellow students due to the severity of the issue.

“My heart dropped to the pit of my stomach,” said senior Brooke Sleavensky. “I found myself reading the announcement over and over again, trying to make sense of the situation and see if what I was reading was really true.”

As a federally funded institution, Sacred Heart University is obligated to protect students from sexual assault, harassment and violence. 

According to Title IX, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Sacred Heart’s Title IX Office has many protocols, training sessions and other resources to uphold these laws. One program that has recently come into effect is called the Green Dot Program.

“Basically, you think of acts or behaviors related to sexual assault, violence and stalking as red dots,” said Kristen Eschwie, Project Coordinator of the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) Grant. “When you intervene, you create a green dot. The program focuses on ways to intervene, getting around your barriers and ways to do proactive green dots.”

Another program that has been in effect longer is the Sexual Assault/Sexual Misconduct training that all incoming students are required to take.

“The purpose of training is to expose students, build awareness, and assist students to be able to recognize when something isn’t right and enact strategies for next steps,” said Mia James Westendorp, Title IX Coordinator.

With these protocols in place, some students feel safe on campus.

“When I’m on campus, I feel fine, but when I walk on Park Avenue late at night, I do feel a little nervous,” said sophomore Grace Duffy. “I know that there’s a blue light near the crosswalk, but I do wish there were more of them since it’s technically off campus.”

However, some students feel there needs to be more consideration from other students concerning safety.

“For the most part, I do feel safe on campus,” said Sleavensky. “I wish male students understood the importance of closing main entrance doors of dorms and apartments instead of propping them open for their friends. They don’t understand that someone unwanted can enter these buildings and will most likely target a woman’s room.”

In order to prevent sexual assault, misconduct and harassment, students need to rely on each other.

“A safe community involves everyone,” said Gary MacNamara, Executive Director of Public Safety and Government Affairs. 

“We work hard to keep SHU safe, and to make it a great place to live. However, one crime is one too many, and we are always looking at ways to enhance safety for our community members.” 

If you are the victim or witness to a sexual crime, please contact Public Safety, file a complaint online or fill out a report through the Silent Witness Program.

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