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Police investigate sexual assaults at GU

Campus has sharpened policies and response, assistant dean says

Two sexual assaults involving Gonzaga University students in the first three weeks of classes have triggered a wave of warnings on the campus.

Spokane police are investigating the assaults, said sex crimes Sgt. Steve Wohl.

These types of incidents are “not unusual for a college area such as EWU (Eastern Washington University) or GU,” he said.

The two assaults occurred in early September and are not connected, Wohl said. Both involved people the victims knew.

“This is more common, but just as, if not more, upsetting,” he said.

GU officials have shifted efforts to addressing the issue.

“We’ve always been concerned about sexual assaults, but I think we’ve sharpened and focused how we handle sexual assaults in an effort to get better,” said Jeffery Hart, GU assistant dean of students.

He added, “We’ve retooled our sexual assault response teams. We’ve reviewed our policies on sexual assault policy, and our counseling services offer one-on-one counseling and refer out to resources in the community.”

Since 2009, there have been 12 reported sexual assaults at GU, according to police and GU’s report in compliance with the Clery Act, a federal statute requiring colleges and universities to provide crime statistics. EWU had 27 reported sexual assaults during the same time period.

Student enrollment at EWU is more than double that of GU.

“Students are interested and concerned, but they operate from a frame of reference of 18, 19 and 20 years old,” Hart said. “It’s certainly a concern of parents. The parents office has gotten a number of calls. Overall, I think there’s a healthy amount of concern out there.”

GU’s concern, he added, “is that this kind of conduct is not consistent with our basic values.”

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