EAST STROUDSBURG – New initiatives announced by the White House caught the attention of many colleges and universities, including East Stroudsburg in Monroe County.
On the same afternoon top White House Officials were highlighting the very serious issue of sexual assault, East Stroudsburg University celebrated the grand opening of its new Women’s Center – a place where victims of sexual assault can turn for help.
It’s a grand opening and a new home for students looking for help on East Stroudsburg University’s campus. This women’s center shares space with the campus V.O.I.C.E. – Victim’s Options in Campus Environment.
"They both serve a similar purpose on campus, they have some uniqueness to them, but they serve the purpose of helping to educate students, giving them opportunities, places where they can come and talk,” said East Stroudsburg University’s Police Chief Robin Olson.
ESU junior and resident assistant Rebecca Zirklebach says she knew sexual assault victims who came to the center looking for help.
"I have a handful of friends that had somewhere to go and they came here and they are actually really grateful that they had a place like here,” said Zirklebach.
Now, a White House task force aimed at bringing more awareness to the issue is working to help universities help students who are victims of sexual assault.
The new plan includes educational opportunities and the website, www.notalone.gov.
Much of which ESU’s police chief says they’ve already implemented here on campus.
"There's going to be a lot of good information there and a starting point for people, but I think it's really going to come down to the local environment, what's available here,” said Chief Olson.
Both the White House and ESU hope these initiatives encourage more victims of sexual assault to come forward. According to ESU police only four sexual assaults have been reported on campus since the beginning of last school year.
It’s a number that doesn’t surprise one ESU junior who helped in the planning of the new center here on campus.
"While the numbers reported is really low, I guarantee you it's probably ten times more than that, which is sad to say. It really speaks to the issue on campus,” said President of the Feminist Alliance Allih Hussein.
ESU hopes the new women’s center and the new support from the White House helps to let all victims know, there’s help available.
"We understand these things may occur. We're working to try to prevent them, we're working to reduce them, but if they do occur, you don't have to be someone who suffers in silence,” said Olson.
According to national statistics, about one in every four female college undergrads will be sexually assaulted this school year, most of them by acquaintances.