For a UA student
who has ques-
tions about sexual assault or has been the victim of a sexual assault, there is often no clear answer and no definite organization to turn to for help.
A new group on campus is hoping to fill that void.
Students Taking Action Against Rape, or STAAR, was created by people who feel the University of Arizona administration has been slow to respond to the sexual assaults reported this school year. The members also want something constructive to come out of last semester's protests.
Since September, six sexual assaults have been reported on campus. In February, assaults in Navajo-Pinal-Sierra Residence Hall, Graham-Greenlee Residence Hall and Manzanita-Mohave Residence Hall were reported.
Students held a candlelight vigil outside of Delta Chi Fraternity in November to protest two reported rapes that allegedly occurred there and at Delta Tau Delta fraternity. And a student reported March 12 that a man on a bicycle grabbed her between her legs.
"We started this group because there wasn't anyone doing anything at the UA about the assaults," said Tracy Jalbuena, a sociology graduate student and STAAR's secretary. "The administration wasn't addressing rape and there wasn't a student organization to put pressure on them."
Carol Zimberlin, a member of STAAR and a civil engineering junior, said she is happy that students have united to do something about sexual assault on campus.
"I think it's important because, from what we have gathered so far, the issue of rape on this campus hasn't been addressed very strongly," Zimberlin said. "We formed this coalition to bring the issue of rape to the forefront."
A doctoral thesis
completed by Lee
Bird in 1992 shows the percentage of UA men who attempted and committed sexual assaults in that year was alarmingly high.
The thesis states, "In a study conducted here at the UA, 9.1 percent of the men in the study admitted to attempting sexual assault with at least one woman during the previous academic year. Additionally, 5.3 percent of the men in the same study admitted to committing at least one sexual assault during the same period."
University police reports since 1991 show 17 people have reported sexual assaults on campus.
Sarah Baird, a health educator for Student Health Services, said the UA needs STAAR to help work for a place where concerned students can turn for information.
"Right now there's no central place to respond to sexual assault questions or for people to report things," Baird said. "There's a lot of people on campus that can help, but it's really confusing as to where to go."
Baird helped develop the Sexual Assault Response Advisory Team and Planning Committee two years ago. The group has recently compiled a strategic plan to help the university understand and deal with sexual assaults. STAAR is beneficial because it will keep the issue of sexual assault from being ignored, she said.
"I think that having a group like STAAR will really bring the issue forward so it can't be hidden."
Baird is also the advisor for Campus Acquaintance Rape Educators, a group run by students who take a two-credit course in rape awareness and education.
CARE was originally a program of the Student Health Center, but it became another victim of budget cuts in 1992 and was canceled.
Baird restarted the program with funds from the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, and it is the only rape awareness program that receives any direct funding on campus.
STAAR is hoping
to become a
recognized organization on campus and is in the process of petitioning for funds from ASUA.
In a letter to the Tucson Women's Commission, STAAR states that their primary goal is to challenge the current campus silence on rape through action, education and pressure on the administration. The group has been meeting weekly with Daniel Maxwell, interim director of Student Affairs. Maxwell has set up meetings between members and administrative officials.
In the past few years, the mid
administration has created committees, such as the Ad Hoc Gender Issue Committee, started in 1992, and the Sexual Assault Task Force, which was dissolved in 1991 because of budget cuts. These committees were established to work on sexual assault-related issues on campus. However, beyond making recommendations to set up rape counseling offices and making the campus safer, the committees accomplished nothing.
Dean of Students Melissa Vito said budget cuts have prevented committees from remaining intact. She said a student-run group like STAAR will probably be able to accomplish goals that administrative committees could not.
"Obviously there's a need for the group," Vito said. "I'm very pleased that a group of students has come together to work to combat sexual assault." She is scheduled to meet with STAAR in April.
The group has surfaced at a time when UA students and administrators are seriously concerned about sexual assault on campus, Vito said.
STAAR has outlined six points that it wants addressed by the administration. Surprisingly, they are almost exactly the same as the recommendations given by the ad hoc committee.
STAAR members would like to see:
ù Mandatory annual training of Residence Life staff and Greek leaders on issues surrounding sexual assault and rape.
ù Creation and thorough enforcement of a disciplinary policy regarding sexual assault in the Greek system.
ù Collection and publication of statistics on campus sexual violence Ä both when an official police report is completed and when one is not.
ù Dissemination of accurate information to the entire UA community when a sexual assault occurs on campus.
ù Establishment of a rape crisis center at the UA.
ù Voluntary placement of residence and phone numbers in the campus directory.
In addition to working on the issues, Jalbuena said, STAAR wants its members to educate other students on the topic. The group has put together a 50-page folder with information and statistics about sexual assault. STAAR plans to provide information to its members so they can go into the community and educate others.
James Cook, a sociology graduate student and STAAR member, said he is frustrated because administrators and students should have been working together sooner to combat sexual assault.
"This should have been happening a long time ago," he said. "Interpersonal meetings between students and people in administration helps keep communication open and that's what we need."
Right now STAAR is still in its planning stages but its members say they are looking forward to future events that will give rise to people's awareness about sexual assault on campus.
"We have a lot of ideas but first we have to make sure that we have longevity," Jalbuena said. "We have to know that people are going to stick around."
STAAR holds a meeting each Monday at 7 p.m. in the Student Union's Cactus Lounge.
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