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BU to establish campus sexual assault crisis center

Decision follows assaults, hazing

Boston University said Monday that it will establish a campus crisis center to focus on rape and sexual assault prevention and provide support for victims of other forms of physical abuse, such as hazing.

The announcement was made after two alleged sexual assaults involving hockey players, two reported hazing incidents, and several dormitory shower peeping incidents over the past several months.

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BU president Robert A. Brown said recent events “have lent a focus to our discussions’’ about establishing the center, “but they are not solely responsible for it.’’

“Boston University can learn from what we have experienced this spring and become a better community for living and learning,’’ Brown wrote in a letter to the campus community. “I believe that the vitality of our community depends on individual actions and the responsibility we take for ourselves and for others.’’

The school already provides a “full range of services’’ related to sexual assault prevention and support, said university spokesman Colin Riley. By establishing a physical location for those services, the offerings will not only expand, but will be more centralized and accessible.

The university plans to open the center in the fall at a location that has not yet been determined, said Brown, who also has launched a task force to examine the college’s hockey culture.

Campus activists, including student-run groups, had advocated for a rape crisis center at BU even before the recent string of reported physical abuse and pressed the university again when they met with Brown in March, school officials said.

“Right now this is huge, the fact that [the administration is] acknowledging the need for this center and moving forward with it,’’ said BU senior Michelle Weiser.

But, she added, “It’s unfortunate that it took high-profile assaults and media attention, but that’s kind of the nature of our society today.’’

Weiser manages public relations for the Center for Gender, Sexuality and Activism, a student organization that pushed for such a center. In recent months, an on-line petition calling for the creation of a crisis center garnered more than 1,200 signatures.

She said she and other activists are looking forward to working further with the administration to help develop final plans for the new center.

In his letter, Brown said that he is “grateful to members of our community, including members of student groups, who have provided information and insightful suggestions about how we might improve our services.’’

The center will be overseen by the university’s student health services department, according to the letter.

While not finalized, staffing at the center is expected to include at least three full-time clinical specialists specifically trained in crisis and sexual assault counseling, according to Brown. There will also be one full-time nonclinical “prevention specialist’’ to help with training, outreach, and referrals.

“We are committed,’’ Brown wrote, “to working to ensure that our academic community is one in which uncivil, violent, or abusive treatment of others is not tolerated and that we have the appropriate means in place both to reduce the likelihood of such events and to provide strong support to those affected when, despite our best efforts, such events occur.’’

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at mjrochele@gmail.com.
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