National Spotlight Brings Attention to Campus Sexual Assaults

October is national sexual assault awareness month. Some of America’s most prestigious universities have been in the national spotlight due to ambiguous sexual assault policies and reporting procedures.

Officials at Black Hills State University in Spearfish said they have policies in place that are followed in the event of a sexual assault, and they said they encourage victims to come forward.

Mike Isaacson is the Dean of Students at BHSU. Isaacson said only three sexual assaults have been reported to University officials in the past three years. He said one of the assaults took place on university property — in one of the residence halls – the other two assaults happened off campus but were reported to university authorities because students were involved.

Despite the relatively low number of assaults reported — officials at BHSU said they are always looking for ways to keep students safe.

BHSU’s Director of Public Safety Phil Peshek said there is a vast array of security measures taken on campus to ensure the safety of students.

“The residence halls are all electronic door locks — access is only by magnetic stripe cards. We have uniformed public safety officers on campus seven days a week and we take a very proactive approach to our job as far as offering awareness training, personal safety training, and we’re hosting different sexual assault presentations and seminars,” says Peshek.

Peshek said that’s not all. He said there is a yearly review of campus safety. Peshek said every fall members of faculty, the student senate, and other university personnel take a walk and canvas all campus grounds to inspect safety issues like lighting.

Peshek said BHSU is currently converting many campus outside lights to LED bulbs. He said the new LED lights are brighter and will burn longer than current bulbs.

Such low incidences of sexual assaults reported at BHSU may be the result of safe campus conditions, however university officials said it may also mean student victims are still hesitant to report assaults – despite being encouraged to do so.

Staying safe is a priority for all students — on campus and off. Be aware of surroundings, travel with friends and avoid walking alone at night, drink alcohol responsibly, and be firm and clear when communicating with others.