“No Cookie Cutter Approach”: How UT responds to stalking on campus

Meghan Nguyen

UT students in stalking and domestic violence situations can utilize protections offered by the University, such as rape aggression defense classes, no-contact orders and more.

On Oct. 22, a University of Utah student was killed by her ex-boyfriend after she filed a police report alleging harrassment. UT Police Department Detective David Chambers said UT has different avenues of response in cases of stalking and domestic abuse. 

“We have patrol, who will respond to 911 or non-emergency calls if someone’s wanting to report any type of domestic violence or stalking,” Chambers said. “Our next level that we work with is the Threat Mitigation Unit. We try to help the victim come up with safety planning or come up with other options.” 

According to the 2018 Annual Fire and Security Report, there were 49 reports of domestic violence, dating violence and stalking at UT in 2017. Twelve percent of students are impacted by stalking, according to the UT Counseling and Mental Health Center.

“What’s interesting is what the state considers stalking and harassment is very different than what the majority of individuals consider stalking and harassment,” Chambers said. “We don’t care if it meets the legal definition. We’re going to be there for the student. (There are) no two cases that are exactly the same, so there’s no cookie cutter approach for how we do these things.”

If victims of stalking or domestic violence choose not to pursue criminal charges, they can utilize civil processes such as no-contact orders, Title IX accommodations and protective orders. UTPD cannot issue a protective order. Those who wish to file a protective order must go through the county’s civil court. However, if someone violates the protective order, UTPD or the Austin Police Department can make an arrest. 

Student body president Colton Becker said the University’s preventative measures need more work.

“Prevention is multi-pronged, and part of prevention deals with education and how we’re educating people,” Becker said. “I’m pleased with the resources the University offers, especially its
Interpersonal Violence Peer Support program. But I think we can get better on the educational component.”

Safehorns president Joell McNew said education on available resources and processes to protect victims should be more publicized by UTPD and the University. 

“Reporting is critical, (and) education of resources and students having the ability to report on behalf of a fellow student should be encouraged and supported.” McNew said. “Education on resources available and processes to protect victims needs to be part of UT Orientation.”