News stories about sexual assault have dogged the University of South Florida in recent days, from a new federal lawsuit alleging Title IX violations to ongoing investigations about the university's handling of sex violence cases.
Thursday evening, USF President Judy Genshaft sent a campuswide email reiterating the resources USF offers and telling students, faculty and staff that USF's first priority is their welfare.
She nodded to the difficulties universities face in dealing with allegations of sexual assault.
"…We promptly respond with resources and support for victims, but our processes must also respect the rights of the accused," Genshaft wrote. "These are complex and very serious cases, and we are concerned for all parties involved."
Genshaft's response nodded to a new lawsuit filed Thursday. In the suit, psychology student Samantha Garrett accuses USF of empowering the fellow student she describes as her rapist while destroying her own sense of safety. Garrett also says USF ignored her repeated pleas for help, as well as concerns raised by professors.
"I want to assure you that no member of the campus community is ever silenced in these matters," Genshaft wrote.
Here is her email in full.
Dear Students, Faculty, Staff, Alumni and Friends,
You may have read or heard stories in the media regarding sexual assault cases affecting the University. I want to assure you that my first priority is the safety and well-being of our community.
USF has several educational programs designed to prevent sexual violence and raise awareness about this important issue. We have well-established resources, which are regularly updated, as well as highly trained response teams in place to promote and maintain a safe, welcoming and productive environment. USF strives to lead the way in promoting a culture where sexual violence is not tolerated. We will remain proactive in ensuring our community members have access to the best information and resources.
When confronted with allegations of sexual assault, we promptly respond with resources and support for victims, but our processes must also respect the rights of the accused. These are complex and very serious cases, and we are concerned for all parties involved.
I want to assure you that no member of the campus community is ever silenced in these matters. We offer anonymous reporting and 24/7 access through victim advocacy and university police.
Any member of our USF community who believes they have been subjected to sexual assault is urged to contact: the USF Center for Victim Advocacy, http://www.usf.edu/student-affairs/victim-advocacy/. To reach the 24/7 victim helpline, call (813) 974-5757. The USF Police Department's website is http://www.usf.edu/administrative-services/university-police/. In an emergency, dial 911; the main number is (813) 974-2628. We have caring, well-trained professionals who respond to every situation with compassion and understanding.
I want to reiterate that our top priority is your welfare.
USF System President