Assault survivor speaks out, criticizes college's procedures

Senior Briana Hays said she was raped near the District in the summer of 2014 by a Rock Island resident.

Although she reported the assault to Augustana College at the time it occurred, she felt like the first time the administration listened to her about it was when she told her story during a panel about sexual violence on Oct. 5.

The panel, comprised of Title IX coordinator Wendy Hilton-Morrow, SGA president David Sommers, Project SAVE member Kelsey West and SafePath campus coordinator Emilee Goad, answered students’ questions about sexual violence after a showing of “The Hunting Grounds,” a documentary highlighting the unjust conduct of sexual assault investigations and procedures across higher education.

Hilton-Morrow asked to speak to Hays after the panel and followed up with an email stating she would look into ways to better handle similar situations in which assaults occur off-campus by non-Augustana students.

However, Hays said when she first spoke to Evelyn Campbell, dean of students, about the assault more than a year ago, Campbell told her the assault was a matter for the police since it did not occur on Augustana’s property.

“Augie…just didn’t want anything to do with me,” said Hays.

Campbell said in cases where Augustana students are assaulted by non-students, the college has no jurisdiction outside of its campus boundaries. She said the most the college can do is make sure the attacker cannot trespass on campus and arrest the person the moment they do step on campus.

“We will do everything we can to keep that student safe on our campus,” said Campbell.

Hays said the college should look into providing group therapy for survivors struggling with their trauma also provide more education for students to learn to protect themselves.

“I came in loving Augie and feeling so supported, and now I still love you, but I just don’t feel cared about by you,” said Hays.

Laura Schnack, who serves as the deputy Title IX coordinator in charge of student investigations, said the college will provide counseling, resources, housing accommodations, medical care and pastoral services to any student survivor of assault depending on what the student wants. The student determines the amount of the college’s involvement.

However, Hays said she didn’t feel supported by the college. She left for a year to seek medical treatment related to the assault and returned to campus this year. Upon her return, she learned she was placed in a single room with no air-conditioning in House on the Hill, even though she needs air conditioning for medical reasons and has an 82-pound service dog as part of her treatment.

“My mom had to call and threaten to sue the school, and then they moved me,” said Hays.

Her experience hasn’t been much better with the legal system. After discovering her case was closed by the Rock Island police department without her notification, Hays calls the secretary of state twice a month so her case can move forward in court.

“Moving forward, it’s like what are you going to do to help these other students…I feel dismissed (by the police), and I told Augie what happened,” said Hays. “I felt very dismissed by them, and I come back to school and you give me bad housing, and I ask for accommodations, and you give me push back. I don’t expect special treatment, but the least you can do is help me with a smooth transition back to school.”

Due to privacy laws, the administration couldn’t disclose specifics on Hays’s case.