Sexual, domestic assault issues on UCF, UF campuses
Domestic violence and sexual assault are no longer the twin elephants in the room.
In light of recent happenings in the world — from the case of Ray Rice to attacks at the University of Florida — fewer people are turning a blind eye to victims of domestic violence.
In fact, it's an issue right here on campus.
The UCF Police Department handles roughly 65 to 75 domestic violence cases per year, which comes out to more than one case per week, with possibly even more going unreported.
Two categories of domestic violence are dating violence and familial violence, with a majority of UCF cases falling into the former category. Dating violence applies to intimate relations between two individuals and family violence is inclusive to marriage and any blood connection.
Despite common belief, dating violence is not necessarily always male-on-female attacks.
"It's 50-50 … many males face domestic violence as well," said UCF police officer Pete Stephens.
Dating violence entails several elements, but for an individual to be arrested there must be probable cause — apparent physical attacks on an individual by their partner. Regular police procedures take place if a student is picked up for domestic violence, and charges can include battery or aggravated battery. An offender is then booked into the Orange County Jail.
And UCF isn't the only state university experiencing violence near and on campus. Recently, the Gainesville Police Department and University of Florida Police Department began investigating attacks on four women in the span of nine days.
"These women are getting grabbed from behind, they're being thrown down violently, they're being attacked and this guy is running — when there's a struggle," UF Police Chief Linda Stump told WKMG.
All four women, three of whom are college students, were between the ages of 20 and 21, and reported being attacked by a tall, white man from behind. While all women were able to fight off the attacks, two of which occurred on campus, police are considering the cases attempted sexual assault.
Following the attacks, UF is taking protective measures. For example, volunteers walked women to their cars from one of the on-campus libraries one night, and students have told other media outlets that more police officers are on campus at night.
"It's actually like looking for a needle in a stack of needles," UF police officer Ben Tobias told News 4 Jax of trying to catch the suspect.
And while these events have sparked stricter safety measures at UF and even some universities in Jacksonville, UCF is sticking to its routine procedures.
"What was going on at UF, it very clearly seemed like an isolated event to the university. It seems very isolated to Gainesville," said Courtney Gilmartin, UCF PD public information officer.
UCF's Victim Services works with on-campus locations, including the Health Center and Counseling and Psychological Center, as well as off-campus communities such as Harbor House and the Victim Service Center of Central Florida, to assist domestic-violence victims. UCF also offers services to students, such as safety planning, counseling, workshops and a 24/7 hotline.
More recently, Victim Services has partnered with the Health Center, which is currently working on a research project through which patients are asked four questions that are domestic-violence triggers.
If a patient answers "yes" to any of the questions, he or she is automatically referred to an advocate for further questioning.