Florida universities are revising policies that deal with cases of rape after a federal investigation of 55 schools nationwide revealed assaults were either underreported or not investigated thoroughly.
Only one school in Florida was part of the investigation, but the U.S Department of Education asked state universities to make some policy changes.
Florida Atlantic University is one of the schools with the least amount of reported sexual assaults. This is out of 33 reported cases from last year.
David Kian is vice president of legal affairs and general counsel for FAU. He says there are a number of reasons the reports are so few, but that the success of the school's policies so far might be a contributing factor.
“The university is experiencing fewer reports,” says Kian “I think it’s fair to conclude that part of the reason [is] the outreach and educational efforts that [the school undertook].”
But representatives from the Florida Council of Sexual Violence say the numbers tend to be low because victims are too afraid to come forward. A recent report from the White House also showed only 12 percent of sexual assaults are actually reported.
In response, FAU decided to revise their code of sexual misconduct. A student-based organization, Owls Care, is in its second year and is a component of the sexual assault prevention program.
Incoming student body president Michael Cepeda says students who apply to become Owls Care Student Leaders are trained on how to identify signs of potential sexual violence. Kian says the trainings are supposed to empower students.
“We want the students to understand the power that a bystander or a witness has” said Kian, “to prevent acts of sexual violence in the first place.”
Some of the courses and training programs have registration fees but Kian says it's not clear how much it costs to maintain the bystander program.
“We don’t yet have a defined budget” says Kian.
He says FAU’s policy changes will go into effect this fall semester.