SART gives help to student victims

By Jennifer McCabe

The NIU Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) is one of four programs on college campuses across the country.

The NIU Student Judicial Code defines sexual abuse as “Assaulting, battering or recklessly endangering any person in a situation involving sexual intimidation,” section 3-1.1c Sexual Abuse.

NIU started the SART program two years ago to assist the victims of sexual assaults and promote reporting of the assaults.

This is a 24 hour program which includes the Campus Police, University Health Services, Counseling and Student Development Center and the University Judicial office. There is also one DeKalb community department, Sexual Assault Abuse Services (SAAS).

Each department offers their services free of charge to NIU students who are the victims of a sexual assault and suggests they utilize each of the other departments.

The program is free to students who need the help, and the victim chooses which, or all of the departments in the assistance program of which they wish to take advantage.

The departments of SART each have their own programs when a sexual assault victim reports to them.

The Student Health Service conducts a complete medical exam. The health service also completes tests to determine whether a sexually transmitted disease has been contracted, and requires that they come back for follow up tests to make sure there is no STD.

They also gather medical evidence that will help the victim in a court of law, if the victim comes to them immediately after the assault, before they have showered or changed.

Beverly Beetham, assistant director of University Health Services, said the health service is able to take evidence up to 72 hours after the assault, but it is harder to do so.

They then suggest the victim should report the assault to University Police and the Judicial Office to prosecute. They also recommend to go to counseling and student development for psychological support, Beetham said.

“They are not forced, but we strongly recommend that they use these services,” Beetham said. “Every department offers valuable support.”

Terry Jones, acting assistant judicial officer, said the University Judicial office will review the complaint and issue a temporary sanction against the alleged offender if the victim is afraid of the assailant.

This gives the office a chance to investigate the complaint, Jones said.

“We have to protect both parties of the assault. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty in court,” he said.

The University Police will investigate and prepare all the facts of the crime to turn over to the state’s attorney, who decides whether or not to prosecute.

The victim will remain anonymous until the case goes to court. The police involvement is up to the victim.

There are also victims who just wish to report the crime, but not prosecute. These cases are almost impossible to prosecute, said Kathy Guimond, university police lieutenant.

“Most rapists are repeat offenders, and many people say, ‘I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.’ And if this happens again, we know what is going on,” Guimond said.

Lynda O’Brien, program coordinator of SAAS, said that SAAS is there to help the victim or friends and family of the victim through the entire process of counseling and reporting the crime.

SAAS is a 24 hour service that gives access to anyone in the DeKalb community who needs a trained advocate. They are there to answer simple questions or give advice and support to a victim of sexual violence. The support is given over the phone or in person, which ever way the person prefers.

“We follow the caller’s requests and won’t make them prosecute. We want them to be in control again, because for a brief time, they lost that control. We give them advice, so they cam make informed decisions, but what they do is up to them,” O’Brien said.

They tell them what their rights are and make sure they are receiving treatment they need. They are also given all the emotional support they need.

“It never goes away. It is like a roller coaster. There are up and down times. The up times are good and may last a long time. But, anything can trigger a memory and cause the person to go into a down time, when they need to talk to us and get support,” O’Brien said.

To get a counselor at SAAS during business hours, call the Ben Gordon Center at 756-4875. After hours or weekends call the crisis line at 748-6655. Either time will get a counselor in touch with the victim.