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Sorority, local law firm hosts panel on sexual assault

In an effort to raise awareness about sexual assault, University of Massachusetts sorority Alpha Chi Omega, with Amherst’s Dunn & Phillips Law Firm, hosted the panel “Debunking the Myth: A Guide to Understanding Sexual Assault” Wednesday night in the Campus Center.

The discussion came after a semester in which a female UMass student was allegedly raped by four men in her dorm room and an editorial was published in Amherst College’s student-run newspaper by a female student alleging that Amherst College had mishandled its response to her on-campus rape.

One in four female college students will be victims of sexual assault at one point in their college careers, according to the Department of Justice.

Organizers of the event were quick to point out that behind every statistic is a human being.

“It is not the statistics that are important, it is the people that lay behind them,” said Molly Conneely, a UMass senior who coordinated the seminar as both a member of Alpha Chi Omega and a Dunn & Phillips intern.

The panel of four experts leading the night’s discussion emphasized that victims often struggle to come forward with their story. And when they do, the process can be difficult.

As many victims may be unaware of the services offered to them, Instructional Director at the Center for Women and Community Jill Grimaldi urged students to call the free and confidential CWC hotline for information about steps to take following a sexual assault.

The seminar emphasized the multitude of resources victims can turn to after being sexually assaulted. Collecting evidence, for example, is vital to achieving justice for the victim. The Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program ensures its examination process as being oriented around the needs and feelings of the patient. University Health Services on campus is a designated SANE site.

Despite the existing options, Michael Edelstein of Dunn & Phillips Law Firm noted that colleges do not always provide the best service, citing the dropping out of Angie Epifano, the Amherst College student that wrote the column detailing her on-campus rape, as well as the Penn State sex scandal as examples of institutions failing to fulfill their obligation to protect students.

Edelstein, a UMass alum, said “institutional prerogatives are often more important than the interests of a student.”

Today, Alpha Chi Omega will be wrapping up their week-long Healthy Relationships Week selling carnations in the Campus Center to aid this cause and raise awareness.

Eric Bosco can be reached at ebosco@student.umass.edu.

 

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