Police answered questions about domestic violence and sexual assault Thursday evening in accordance with the YWCA’S Week Without Violence.
The event gave students a chance to present their questions to the WSU Police Advisory Board, which included Captain Dawn Daniels and Officer Aaron Breshears of the Pullman Police Department. Additionally, the panel included Susan Simonds, the sexual assault response coordinator for WSU’s counseling services, and Cameron Jester, a representative for Alternatives to Violence of the Palouse (ATVP).
The panel was asked a variety of questions regarding the prevention, ramifications and legal definitions of sexual assault and domestic violence.
“The state of Washington defines domestic violence as violence involving a domestic relationship,” Breshears said.
He addressed the fact that a domestic relationship includes those living together in Greek chapters and residence halls and those who are dating.
When asked what students can do to prevent sexual assault, Daniels said, “We need to remember that we don’t need to be embarrassed to make a scene.”
Daniels said she wants students to not be afraid to take necessary action to prevent any potential assault.
“Be aware of the risk factors,” Breshears said in response to the same question. “Using alcohol and drugs can make it easier for the predators out there to come after you.”
Daniels also stressed the wording of Washington state’s law on consensual sex.
“Verbal consent must be given,” Daniels said. “There needs to be a definite ‘yes’.”
This means that even if someone does not blatantly object to any sexual act, without clear, verbal consent it can still be construed as assault in the state of Washington, Daniels said.
“If somebody is drunk they’re incapacitated, which means under the law they cannot give consent,” Simonds said.
The panel also extensively discussed the importance of an assault victim’s support system.
Victims can call ATVP and receive confidential support and guidance, Jester said. According to their website, ATVP offers emergency shelter, legal and medical advocacy and crisis interventions.
On campus, students can utilize the counseling services, which are legally bound to confidentiality, Simonds said. The university has systems in place to help crime victims deal with any of the potential difficulties of reporting crimes.
Daniels also said that the Pullman Police Department is always open for anyone to come in and ask questions, whether they intend to file a claim or not.
However, the panel members agreed that what could be the most important factor in the health of a victim is the support of his or her friends.
“Negative peer support can have as much of an impact on the victim as an anything,” Breshears said. “Positive peer support is extremely important.”