Editorial: Assaults reinforce need for victim support

In the past week, four people have been physically or sexually assaulted on or near campus.

While these students were brave enough to file reports, the sad fact is that many other victims stay silent. A lack of reports only gives us a glimpse into the larger problem. And, now more than ever, it is important to remind students of the safety resources they have at Pitt.

Pitt’s University Counseling Center offers specialized counseling services to assist students who have experienced sexual assault, stalking and harassment. The sexual assault specialist, who coordinates these services, also assists students with obtaining medical, police and judicial resources within Pitt and the local community. To access any of these services, students can call 412-648-7930 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday through Friday or 412-648-7856 after 5 p.m. or on weekends.

If you need to report a sexual assault, a criminal complaint can be filed with the Pitt police by calling 412-624-2121 or 911, for the city of Pittsburgh police. On the Pitt police website, you can also file an anonymous complaint, if privacy is a concern.

Following the Sunday assaults, Pitt has taken extra measures to keep students aware of its resources. In his email to students about the assaults, Ted Fritz, associate vice chancellor for public safety and emergency management, outlined the University’s additional safety provisions.

Fritz said the Pitt police department has already begun to expand its officer patrols, and the University will continue to offer self-defense classes, with the next one falling on Feb. 10.  In addition to these services, the University should consider expanding its SafeRider routes and the number of times a student can request the service.

We hope Pitt will continue the conversation and every student will take advantage of these preventative steps. But students also have an important role in this dialogue.

If you witness a potentially volatile situation, you must speak up. If you see someone persistently make advances toward someone clearly unreceptive to them, it’s time to step in. Talk to your friends, your neighbors, your classmates — everyone — about consent. Feeding into the bystander effect is unacceptable.

If your friend comes and confides in you, don’t interrogate them or dismiss their claims. Tell them where to get help.

Assault victims deserve instant presumption of honesty. Questioning their behavior and motives for coming forward or not is unproductive. It is extremely rare for someone to lie about an assault, and doubt places pressure on victims when they have enough to deal with already.

No matter the situation, don’t be afraid to seek support, and don’t be afraid to offer it.

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