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Student Group Pushes for Rape Crisis Center at Purdue

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A coalition of student groups at Purdue University is pushing school officials to establish a rape crisis center on campus so that victims can get help sooner without being re-traumatized.

But university officials say services for sexual assault victims already exist either on campus or in Greater Lafayette and that a bricks-and-mortar facility wouldn’t be a good use of resources.

Dr. Sarah Sayger, medical director of the Purdue University Student Health Center, said the health center receives about 10 to 12 sexual assault cases per year. But that might not reflect the true number of assaults on campus. A U.S. Department of Justice report in December, which analyzed National Crime Victimization data from 1995 to 2013, found that nearly 80 percent of rape and sexual assault cases among female students nationally went unreported, according to the Journal & Courier.

“People are not readily revealing this information,” Sayger said. “It’s such a private thing and can be so traumatic that people simply don’t want to talk about it.”

Sayger said the health center has four staff members who can conduct sexual assault examinations. The clinicians, however, are limited to business hours.

If students need an exam after hours, they are referred to Center of Hope, a service for sexual assault victims provided by St. Elizabeth East.

She acknowledged that can seem far away for a student in crisis.

“If they don’t have transportation, they are dependent on an ambulance or police,” Sayger said. “They may be uncomfortable with that.”

Michelle Campbell, a doctoral student, agreed.

“We’re not looking to hinder the services that are in Lafayette, but unfortunately, those services, especially for a freshman who doesn’t have a car on campus, those services are a long, long way away,” she said.

“What we’re asking for is for some of those services to be available on campus so [victims] can get the help they need without … being re-traumatized.”

Alysa Rollock, vice president for ethics and compliance, said student groups have proposed a crisis center in the past but that the university doesn’t think it would be an appropriate use of resources.

She said her office is distributing a confidential email survey to students through May 4 to gain a better understanding of sexual assault on campus. The survey is sponsored by the Association of American Universities and aims to reach up to 800,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students across the United States.

Campbell said she will continue pressing her proposal this fall.

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