Conference to Highlight Sexual Assault on College Campuses

Sexual assault on college campuses is the focus of a conference the Massachusetts Northwestern District Attorney’s office plans to hold tomorrow (Friday) at Hampshire College. 

The conference comes on the heels of several high-profile cases of sexual assault last fall, one at Amherst College and another at UMass Amherst. Mary Kociela, director of domestic violence projects in the district attorney’s office, says there’s been a documented increase in the number of rapes on campuses in Hampshire County in recent years. She says that may be partly due to an increase in reporting by victims.

“I don’t necessarily see that as, ‘oh it’s happening more,’” Kociela says. “I think that what’s happening is that there’s more awareness and people are coming forward more.”

A centerpiece of the conference is three short public service announcements with local college actors. The videos take place at parties where there’s drinking and where young men are making unwanted advances towards young women. In one instance, a friend steps in, and that says Kociela, is called being an active bystander.

Kociela says the videos are purposefully explicit. According to statistics reported by each of the five colleges – Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, Smith, and UMass, there were 39 on campus sexual assaults in 2011, compared to 45 in 2010 and 25 in 2009.