Doane University's CAPE program works to prevent sexual assault

Published: Nov. 17, 2019 at 4:23 PM CST
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According to Doane University, the number of reported sexual assaults is on the rise, but the university says that doesn't mean there are more sexual assaults. It just means more people feel safe enough to report what happened.

The Campus Advocacy Prevention and Education, or CAPE project, has been part of Doane's campus for three years now.

"We are kind of an initiative that was started in 2016 to oversee prevention of and response to sexual assault, dating, domestic violence and stalking," said Suzannah Rogan, CAPE project director.

So far the university's CAPE project has organized more than 100 prevention and awareness activities and reached more than 5,500 students. This week the project got an extension, a $250,000 grant to build and expand its work.

"When parents and students trust us to come to this institution, it's our job to make sure they feel safe," said Sarah Zulkoski, director of grants and foundations relations.

Right now, the CAPE project focuses heavily on preventing sexual assaults and violence on the university's Crete campus, but with the renewal the goal is to expand the campus climate survey to include non-traditional students in Lincoln, Grand Island and Omaha.

"We recognize our non-residential students are probably not experiencing sexual violence domestic violence and stalking on campus, but they're more likely experiencing that at home," Rogan said.

Changing campus culture doesn't happen overnight.

"We get a lot of questions like, 'Have we done it? Have we stopped rape? And while I wish that was the case, we are still in that process of uncovering what the full scope of the problem is," Rogan said.

With the renewal helping fund the project through 2023, the university says the impact will only grow.

"People are already way more open about talking about these things," said peer educator Allison Jasso. "At the very least, it's nice to know there are people on campus working to make it safer."

According to Doane's most recent campus climate survey, 33 percent of female respondents and 13 percent of male respondents say someone had unwanted sexual contact with them since they began their career at Doane. The CAPE project says those numbers are disheartening, but exactly why it is working so diligently to fix the problem.