CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - Coastal Carolina University hosted a forum on Monday night as a way for the community to express their concerns and thoughts on the university’s process of handling sexual assault cases.
The forum was also a way for the university to push out accurate information about how it handles these cases.
“Change - that is their main concern. They need change. They know they need change,” said CCU student Dayna Trotter.
Attendees voiced their questions to a panel of representatives from CCU’s public safety department, counseling services, student organizations and the Dean of Students.
The representatives explained how each department is involved with the cases and how they work together.
The panel was also presented with tough questions from the community.
One of the top questions asked was how the university is combating the perception that it sweeps sexual assault cases under the rug.
“Making your students feel safe should be your number one priority, and since I’ve been here as a freshman I haven’t seen it," said CCU student Maya Wells.
Many attendees expressed a lack of trust in CCU’s process of handling cases.
One student said for her, this lack of trust was created by gaps in communication after she reported her sexual assault.
“As a sexual assault survivor, you don’t want to just wait around and be the one asking the questions," said CCU student Anna Beck. "At that point, I’ve already gone through it. I want them reaching out to me and letting me know, ‘Hey, we’re still thinking of you.'”
Beck said her case took over a year to get results. Fortunately, in her case the results were positive, so she said the time and patience was worth it.
However, she says the communication throughout the process could be improved.
Chief David Roper with CCU’s Public Safety Department explained that the process takes a long time.
“Just because you’re not hearing anything doesn’t mean the process isn’t working to move forward with your case," Roper said.
He said there are seven criminal sexual assault cases from 2016 that are waiting to go to court.
According to the university’s 2018 Clery Report, between 2015 and 2017, 70 sexual offenses were reported on campus.
Roger said not all those reports were made with his department.
Students and staff also raised concerns over safety in university housing, lack of faculty training and the mandatory student sexual assault presentation, Haven Live.
Individuals also said the university needs to dedicate more staff to handling these cases.
Currently, CCU says it has one full-time Title IX coordinator.
Officials in attendance on Monday said they are reviewing the Title IX process and are working on changing Haven Live. They also told participants they are open to continuing to gather input to improve their process.
Students said they felt like Monday’s discussion was a good start and hope real change will come, but remain skeptical.
Trotter added, “Who knows what they are going to do afterwards once we all leave the panel. Is there going to be change?”
Many students are taking action into their own hands.
Beck started an organization, Help Save the Next Girl, to help make other victims feel safe on campus.
She and other members hope further discussion can lead to changes on campus.
“It’s time that we stand up and say, ‘This has got to change,’ and it won’t if we don’t all stand up together" said Wells.