Keeping in stride with their dedication to help the victims of sexual assault, the members of SARN organized a sit-in following the recent allegations. The sit-in, conceived by SARN member Annie Westmoreland '04, took place behind Buntrock Commons and was heralded as a success by SARN co-chairwomen Mary Schmidt '04 and Eleni Pinnow '04. Schmidt and Pinnow have speculated that SARN will stage similar sit-ins following future incidences of sexual assault.
For Schmidt and Pinnow, the work began long ago when they first joined SARN as first-years. They reminisced on the arduous training and demanding dedication that is required of advocates.
"The training was intense. We met for four hours every night for a month," Schmidt said. The four hours were spent in conversation and instruction led by the Womens Safe Center of Rice County. While the experience was exhausting, both agreed that they would do it again.
Pinnow and Schmidt now lead the 17-member organization. As part of a federally-mandated organization, they carry a confidentiality clause. Because of this, they urge victims to talk to them before reporting to school officials.
"We are well-trained and can inform the victim about the legality concerning their issue," Pinnow said.
As for the current sexual assaults, Pinnow and Schmidt described them as "very, very sad." However, they are enthusiastic about the steps that have been taken to investigate the allegations.
Both chairwomen speak very highly of Dean of Students Greg Kneser and his attitude concerning the investigations. Because the assault was reported to the Dean of Students office, police are not involved. Instead, the investigation is being carried out by a member of the deans office. In this case, members of SARN have praised the deans office, citing their efficiency, honesty and willingness to work together with SARN advocates.
Both Schmidt and Pinnow agree that at times, the relationship between SARN and the deans office was not always so smooth. The former sexual assault policy had an option called mediation. Under this option, it was possible for the guilty offender to escape suspension; it was a cause of unrest with SARN.
The new policy, however, has instilled a new attitude of partnership between the deans office and the SARN advocates. Under the revised policy, any report to the deans office concerning sexual assault is investigated to the end.
For students, Schmidt and Pinnow recommend simply talking to someone if one is sexually assaulted. If someone experiences sexual assault, listen to them, encourage them to report the incident and remind them that its not their fault.
As for SARN, they will continue to stage sit-ins to support victims of sexual assault. Their only hope is that it can help alleviate the pain.