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Sexually harassing phone calls difficult to investigate

By James Maxwell

Thursday September 20, 2001

Police get about 50 complaints per year, encourage more to report

UA students received several sexually connotative, harassing phone calls this month, all including, a UAPD official said.

The University of Arizona Police Department received three reports this month of a male who called females at their campus dorm rooms and told them to look at his nude Web site. In each case, the male used sexual language while speaking to the females.

UAPD Cmdr. Brian Seastone said phone calls made with explicit or sexual language and the intent of harassing violates the law.

"It is a criminal offense but it is not always the easiest thing to follow up," he said.

Seastone said he estimates about 50 similar cases are reported each year to UAPD.

He said that when people receive a harassing phone call, they should report it to law enforcement authorities.

"It is important to report it and not sit back and take the harassment," he said.

He said victims can ask the Center for Computer Information and Technology to change their phone number.

Using an answering machine to record harassing messages is also useful because the messages make excellent evidence, Seastone said.

He said when victimized by a harassing phone call, individuals on campus should dial *57 to trace the call.

"Each case is different," he said. "Some are easy to prove, and we can find out who made the call."

Seastone said harassing phone calls do not consist only of males harassing females, as many people believe.

He said there have been cases involving females-to-male and same-gender harassment.

"It doesn't go one way or another," he said.

He said victims of harassment who are having problems dealing with the situation should seek counseling from various campus resources.

"The Oasis Center is an excellent resource for interpersonal issues," he said.

Irene Anderson, director of the Oasis Center for Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence, said harassing phone calls could make the victim feel very uncomfortable.

"Some sexually explicit calls can feel very threatening," she said. "That kind of behavior is dangerous."

Anderson said individuals affected by harassment can visit the center for counseling and advice about the particular situation.

She said the center first advises victims to notify law enforcement officials and then to follow all suggestions made by authorities,

She said the center offers a safety plan for victims to protect themselves emotionally and physically. The plan is created for the specific case and individuals involved.

"For instance, if you receive a harassing call from a former girlfriend or boyfriend, you can receive a court order prohibiting any kind of contact from that person," she said. "Those kind of legal rights are important."

Anderson said people's reactions to harassing phone calls vary because people have different sensitivity levels.

She said that if an individual has experience with harassment in the past, a reoccurrence could have a traumatic affect on that person.

"For someone, that kind of call may be annoying and for another, it may be frightening," she said.

She said anyone in need of counseling for any type of harassment or abuse should feel free to visit the center.

The Oasis Center is in the Old Main building and is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The center is available by appointment or walk-in. Call 626-2051 for more information.


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